A Darker Place

Laurie R. King, Author Bantam Books $23.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-553-10711-1
King, author of the Kate Martinelli crime novels (With Child) and Mary Russell detective series (The Moor), applies her renegade talents to a suspenseful tale in which a woman penetrates the treacherous realm of religious cults in order to save its victims. Anne Waverly, a professor of religious studies at a small Oregon university, is an erstwhile FBI operative whose traumatic past has shaped her skills for infiltrating fringe religious groups: 18 years before, her departure from a Texas commune precipitated a Jonestown-like mass suicide that claimed her husband and young daughter. Haunted by their memory, she agrees to investigate Change, a Northern California commune dedicated to rehabilitating troubled youths. But once inside, under the alias Ana Wakefield, Anne discovers that Change's leaders are modern-day alchemists, who believe that, with the right combination of elements, a spiritual transformation is possible; the innocence of children and a sexual union of yin and yang will detonate the compound with the desired apocalyptic explosion. King presents Change's leaders as neither simplistic opportunists nor frenzied maniacs, but rather as methodical true believers who inhabit an ambiguous and dangerous middle ground. Anne is equally hard to pigeonhole, a feisty, independent woman whose guilt about her family tragedy leads to a misplaced sense of responsibility toward two of the commune's young wards. Anne's self-destructive tendencies are deftly juxtaposed with her fierce survivor's strength, and her frank sexuality and emotional needs are refreshingly rendered. She is a complicated and enigmatic heroine who perfectly fits the task of illuminating the shadowy world of religious cults. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
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