"The Taker" (Gallery Books), by Alma Katsu: Luke Findley, a doctor in the rural Maine town of St. Andrew, is on the overnight shift when police bring in a young woman they claim is a murder suspect.
The woman, Lanore McIlvrae, explains that she's immortal, and grew up in St. Andrew over 200 years ago. As she begins to tell Luke her story, she asks him to help her escape the police, and he's so captivated by her that he agrees.
And so "The Taker" is mostly Lanore's story, and it's as engrossing as it is reminiscent of past novels about immortal beings, particularly as it uses layers of narrative, each going deeper into the past. And though Lanore is an intriguing character, curious and impulsive - dangerous qualities in a young girl from a Puritan settlement - her story doesn't add anything new to the genre.
The repeated cuts back to Luke's perspective feel extraneous as they're not woven into the main narrative all that well, and that author Alma Katsu felt compelled to end certain present-day chapters with Luke telling Lanore to continue with her history is a little disappointing.
The romantic plot also suffers from overfamiliarity. Lanore's conversion to immortality is directly linked to a childhood infatuation with the town magnate's son, Jonathan. She calls it love, though it's clearly an unhealthy obsession, and though Jonathan cares for Lanore, he doesn't reciprocate her deeper feelings. And again, though Katsu keeps Lanore convincingly and cleverly on the line between pure intentions and destructive selfishness, this tale of unrequited love doesn't offer any fresh perspective or insight.
Katsu is a decent storyteller, however, painting 200 years of history with a wide brush to spend more time on psychological and character details, which makes sense, since nearly all the primary characters are out of their own times as well. So while "The Taker" may not knock your socks off, it's perfectly enjoyable; a highly respectable debut.