The Taker by Alma Katsu; Gallery Books; 2011; 448 pgs; $25.00 US

Open the pages of The Taker and a reader might not know what to make of it – usually this means a scintillating read or a confusing mess.  It’s easily the former as Katsu knows what she is doing and accomplishes it beautifully.

Lanore (a fine name for a mysterious woman in a supernatural tale) walks into a Maine hospital after allegedly killing her male companion and with a wound that heals before the doctor’s eyes.

She begins her tale then: one that begins in 1817 in the Puritanical village of St. Andrew. “Lannie” finds herself obsessed with Jonathan, the son of a wealthy businessman, who is the player’s player and has his way with any woman he wishes. There is nothing supernatural to his wiles, though, just simple charisma and good looks. Lanore finds that her love is unrequited, more due to Jonathan’s urges than her efforts.

After meeting a witch in town, learning some disturbing secrets about the townsfolk, and finally bedding her lover, she winds up expelled from the village by her family – pregnant.

This is only the beginning as she is taken in by a man who dwarfs Jonathan in persuasion. Count Adair holds secrets much darker than anything she could imagine but beware – this is NOT a vampire tale.  If it was, it would have been close long ago. Alchemy is a much more inventive device and much more effective.

The story flips between the present and Lanore’s Boston time, falling under the thumb of Adair, and then deeper, further back.  The plot sends the participants into the deepest, darkest places humans can go, where perversions and sex appear more crucial to life than food and water.

Enticing, sensual beyond any other novel read in years within this genre, and thrilling, it should have garnered more Stoker appeal.

However, Katsu appears to have a long, successful career ahead of her. The Taker is recommended for any reader who wishes to lose him/herself in a strong historical horror tale that transcends the genre with ease.

Jun 3, 2012

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