"A nail-biter thriller."
The New York Times Book Review
"Laurie R. King once again astonishes with her skills in A Darker Place....Superb."
The Washington Times
"Casts a spell of psychological terror more visceral than any serial killer melodrama and that, for the thoughtful reader, offers intellectual rewards as well."
The San Diego Union-Tribune
"A literary thriller to end all literary thrillers."
Booknews from The Poisoned Pen
The Barnes & Noble Review
The difference between mainstream and genre, or so I'm told, is that mainstream gives us character, back story, and theme in greater depth than genre. The trouble is, mainstream can also be padded, flabby, and dull, trapped in the Big Book syndrome, in which a scene that should run no longer than 400 words stretches to 4,000. My all-time favorite example of this was a bestseller in which a man turned a doorknob and the author inserted a brief history of doorknobs. Honest.
In A Darker Place, Edgar-winner Laurie R. King avoids most of the pitfalls of taking a familiar genre setup and pumping it up to bestseller size.
This is an infiltration novel, always a perilous subgenre for an author in search of fresh structures.
Professor Anne Waverly belonged to a religious cult a long time ago. The cult committed mass suicide, her husband and daughter among them. Since then, Anne, as a means of doing penance, has cooperated with FBI agent Glen McCarthy in infiltrating cults and saving children before it's too late.
King writes nice, readable prose and organizes her material dramatically. The second half of the book is probably a bit more exciting than the first, though the first 40 pages are a minimasterpiece of organization. She's a very skilled writer in all respects.
Once we see the cult at close range, King sustains a growing sense of menace. She has a nice eye for the type of people who are attracted to cults their almost psychotic joy and parallel clinical melancholy and a real sense of the power struggles that go on within any group. Except forMargaretMillar's classic novel How Like and Angel (perhaps the best mystery novel I've ever read), King has created the only fictional cult I've ever believed in. She downplays the melodrama and gives her cult members true life. She makes us accept the fact that some people out of naïveté or desperation are perfectly willing to hand themselves over to leaders of dubious intent.
As usual, character is King's greatest gift. She manages to make the innocents of this novel not only fascinating but complex, a narrative challenge to which she is more than equal. Similarly, the cynics and predators of the book are also complex. There are moments when one senses that we are finally getting a close-up look at the real Jim Joneses of this world, and it is an ambiguous, contradictory, and even moving look. Messiahs can be scarier than hell. King is too intelligent to give easy answers.
This is a serious novel disguised as a thriller and it succeeds as both. There's a lot of narrative energy here, and a story line that holds more than a few surprises. But what we find most of all here is King's unsentimental compassion for those lost not only to society but to themselves as well. A fine, fine novel.
King leaves behind the familiar haunts of Mary Russell (The Moor) and Kate Martinelli, her two series detectives, to explore the uncharted territory of religious cults with yet another compelling female protagonist, Professor Anne Waverly. For 18 years, Waverly has divided her time between teaching theology and working as an undercover operative for the FBI. This novel takes Anne inside a religious community called Change for what she vows will be her last investigative assignment. At its Arizona outpost she confronts not only the distorted goals and values of the community but the phantoms that lurk in her own past. King's theological background serves her well in this stand-alone thriller. Anne Waverly is competent and believable in each of her dual roles, and her vulnerability makes her an accessible narrator. King's facility for creating one-of-a-kind characters continues to expand. -- Nancy McNicol, Hagaman Memorial Library, East Haven, Connecticut
YA-A suspense novel with another of King's strong, unique, fully formed heroines. Anne Waverly, aka spiritual-seeker Ana Wakefield, a theology professor and sometime FBI agent, has been called to what she hopes is her final assignment. Once a free-spirited cultist who belonged to a group that engaged in a mass suicide shortly after she left, Anne now works undercover to investigate such groups. This time the FBI is suspicious of a group with branches in Arizona, England, and Japan. When Anne becomes Ana, she is usually able to return to her initial seeker's intensity, belying her academic expertise in cults and their personalities. However, she is unable to detach completely for this assignment, bringing an increased emotional vulnerability and subsequent danger to her work. Ana's objectivity is compromised when she is compelled to protect some children involved in the case, including a girl who looks uncomfortably like her daughter. A scholarly tone is set by "excerpts" from Anne's notes and lectures, and the characters, even the "villains," are multifaceted. Much different from The Beekeeper's Apprentice (St. Martin's, 1994) and her other books about Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, and possibly more thought-provoking, this story will not disappoint King's fans.-Susan H. Woodcock, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Anyone who is a fan of Laurie R. King (and she has many) will know that her books are frequently more demanding than the usual mystery....Professor Anne Waverly's exploits are intriguing to say the least, but you may want (or need) some religious and historical reference books alongside you as you read her story....[I]t is another fine work in her collection, one that is both absorbing and challenging.
The Mystery Reader.com
...[T]he strongest apeal of the story lies in its superb characters, especially the children who become Anne's charges. -- The New York Times Book Review
If there is a new P.D. James...I would put my money on Laurie R. King.
Eighteen years after losing her husband and daughter to a mass suicide in a Texas cult, an expert on religious sects agrees to goes undercover one more time to infiltrate a particularly insidious community. Professor Anne Waverly seems a natural for the assignment. Her knowledge of the relations between contemporary modes of spiritual expression and such historic sects as the early Christians is second to none. Since taking a teaching post at Duncan Point University, she's already taken academic leave four times to infiltrate similar cults, saving the lives of children who otherwise might have become hostages or fatalities. And she has a long working relationship with FBI agent Glen McCarthy. In her own way, though, Anne is as painfully driven as any modern messiah. She's racked with guilt over having abandoned her family, and perhaps precipitated the panic that took their lives, by her departure from that Texas cult so long ago. Her undercover work, taken on as a penance for her losses, has aged her and sapped her strength, and her intermittently scalding love/hate affair with McCarthy has left her exhausted. The moment she makes contact with the first members of the Sedona, Arizona, branch of the Change-especially with teenaged artist/basketball player Jason Delgado and his younger sister Dulcie-Anne's strengths and weaknesses collide with the force of a supernova. More than half in love with the boy-man Jason and suffocatingly unable to deal with Dulcie without seeing a twin of her dead daughter, she rises swiftly through the ranks into spiritual leader Steven Change's confidence-and thence to a dangerous posting at the British branch of the Change, far beyond her promised support andher sense of her competence.
King, whose Sherlock Holmes pastiches (The Moor) make it clear that she never takes up a familiar form without making it her own, produces an undercover thriller notable for its intensity, its psychological nuance, and its avoidance of the most obvious action-movie cliché's of the genre.