The Taking
by Erin McCarthy
(Berkley, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-425-23021-3
*****
A haunting and atmospheric ghost story crosses the paths of two people who both thought they were happy in the middle of the road in Erin McCarthy's latest Deadly Sinsnovel, The Taking.

One hundred fifty years ago, Felix LeBlanc unwittingly sold his soul tonourish his greed. Now, more than a century and a lot of experience later, Felix, a voodoo practitioner, primarily entertains, reading fortunes at parties and selling spells and souvenirs in his French Quarter shop. Encountering Regan Henry at a holiday soiree bringsFelix's boring-but-simple life toa screeching halt and sends Regan's into a tailspin.

The night of the party, Regan was seriously contemplating leaving her powerful attorney husband, Beau Alcroft. For reasons she has trouble voicing to friends and family, she finds herself feeling belittled and discontented in their relationship. When Felix asks her to remove her wedding ring for her reading, the sense of freedom that action brings pushes her outside her boundaries to begin divorce proceedings. Months later, living on her own in the house of her dreams, the forbidden attraction to Felix that had niggled her brain that fateful night drives Regan to enlist his services for a charity gala she's planning.

Felix definitely returns Regan's attraction, but he's learned over the years that relationships, for him, are entirely one-sided. His bargain with the demon made him all but irresistible and capable of pleasing anyone, and those abilities lead to people only wanting to take from him. For a long time, this was what Felix wanted; the abilities allowed him to charm the skirts off of rich society ladies but not before he charmed the money out of their purses. To top that off, Felix and Regan's ex go way back, and of all the women in the world, Regan Henry is the most off-limits to him until Alcroft shifts his attention.

It doesn't take Felix long to realize that he's not the only one in danger from Beau, however. Immediately upon moving into her new home, Regan locates the journal of tormented Camille Comeaux, and shortly after that discovery, Camille's ghost begins tearing apart Regan's peace of mind. Regan thinks she's going crazy, and though Felix knows and can tell her that's not the case, he cannot bring himself to tell her the truth--that he was the cause of Camille's death so long ago, and that Regan's own husband is finding ways to make her suffer for it.

Though The Taking moves slowly from time to time, the fascinating and troubled characters, smooth dialogue, and great New Orleans ambience will ensure that readers are never bored. No one is really the good guy in this one, though the bad guy is a glaring beacon of evil. Relationships are the focus be they professional, platonic, or intimate; even the haunting of Regan's home revolves around Camille's devotion to the family she lost during a yellow fever outbreak. Thankfully, the many layers of the story aren't in the slightest bit confusing and weave a consuming story of love, greed, and revenge that is absolutely delicious.

--Sarrah Knight


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