A Darker Place (Anne Waverly Series #1)

A Darker Place (Anne Waverly Series #1)

by Laurie R. King

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

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Called "one of the most original talents to emerge in the '90s" by Kirkus Reviews, award-winning author Laurie R. King delivers an intelligent, terrifying, engrossing drama of good and evil, unlike any she has written before....

A respected university professor, Anne Waverly has a past known to few: Years ago, her own unwitting act cost Anne her husband and daughter. Fewer still know that this history and her academic specialty--alternative religious movements--have made her a brilliant FBI operative. Four times she has infiltrated suspect communities, escaping her own memories of loss and carnage to find a measure of atonement. Now, as she begins to savor life once more, she has no intention of taking another assignment. Until she learns of more than one hundred children living in the Change movement's Arizona compound....

Anne soon realizes that Change is no ordinary community and hers is no ordinary mission. For, far from appeasing the demons of her past, this assignment is sweeping her back into their clutches...and to the razor's edge of danger.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553578249
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1999
Series: Anne Waverly Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 476,059
Product dimensions: 4.15(w) x 6.85(h) x 1.09(d)

About the Author

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen Mary Russell mysteries, five contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, the Stuyvesant & Grey novels Touchstone and The Bones of Paris, and the acclaimed A Darker Place, Folly, and Keeping Watch. She lives in Northern California.

Read an Excerpt

The woman at the focal point of the tiered rows of red and blue seats in the lecture hall did not at first glance seem the type to hold the attention of two hundred and fifty undergraduates at the slump time of three in the afternoon. She was small and her hair was going gray, and her figure, though slim, was long past the litheness of youth. Her voice was quiet and deliberate, which in another speaker would have lulled the back rows to sleep, and the subject of her lecture was more cerebral than kept the average twenty-year-old on the edge of his chair.

The number of sleepers was few, however, and the percentage of spines inclined forward over the tiny writing surfaces attached to the chairs was high. There was an intensity in her that proved contagious, a vivid urgency in her voice and her body that overcame her undistinguished appearance and the torpor of the unseasonably early warmth of the day, transforming her limp into the stately pace of a sage and the wooden cane she leaned on into the staff of a prophetess.

In the eyes of her undergraduates, at any rate.

"What the hell is she talking about?" whispered the woman standing high up at the back of the hall, speaking to the man at her side. The two were not undergraduates; even if their age had not disqualified them, her skirt and blazer and his gray suit made them stand out in the denim-clad crowd.

The man gestured for her to be quiet, but it was too late; they had been noticed. A nearby girl glanced over her shoulder at them, then openly stared, and turned to nudge the boy next to her. The woman saw the girl's mouth form the word "narcs," and then she felt her temporary partner's hand on her elbow, pulling her out the door and out of the lecture hall. Professor Anne Waverly's voice followed them, saying, "In fourth-century Israel this concept of a personal experience of God came together with the political--" before her words were cut off by the doors, and then the police officer and the FBI agent were back out in the watery sunlight.

In truth, neither was a narcotics officer, although both had worked narcotics cases in the past. Glen McCarthy made for a bench just outside the building and dropped into it. Birdsong came, and voices of students walking past; in the distance the freeway growled to itself.

"Did you understand what she was talking about?" Gillian Farmer asked idly, examining the bench closely before she committed the back of her skirt to it.

"Merkabah mysticism as one of the bases for early Christian heresies," Glen answered absently.

She shot him a dubious glance and settled onto the edge of the bench.

"And what is mer-whatever mysticism?" she asked, although she was less interested in the question than in the underlying one of how he came by his easy familiarity with the subject of Professor Anne Waverly's arcane lecture. She listened with half an ear as he explained about the Jewish idea of the merkabah, or chariot, mystical experience, the "lifting up" of the devotee to the divine presence. The scattering of early flowers and one lethargic bee held more of her attention than his words, and he either saw this or had little to say on the subject, because he kept the lecture brief.

After a moment's silence, the bee stumbled off and the subject Gillian really wanted to talk about worked its way to the surface.

"This whole thing has got to be unconventional, at least," she said finally.

"I suppose it looks that way."

The mildness of his answer irritated her. "You don't think that hauling a middle-aged professor of religion out of her ivory tower and into the field to investigate a cult is a little unusual?"

"I wouldn't use the word "cult' in her hearing if I were you," Glen suggested. "Not unless you're interested in a twenty-minute lecture on the difference between cult, sect, and new religious movement."

Gillian Farmer was not to be diverted. "It still sounds like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, not at all like a setup the FBI would come within a mile of."

"The bureau has changed since the days of J. Edgar. Now we do whatever works."

"And you think this will work?"

"It has three times before."

"And, as I understand it, once it didn't. People died."

"We were too late there--the final stages were already in motion before Anne could work her way in. I don't think even she can still feel much guilt about that one."

"Why on earth does she do it?" Gillian asked after a while. "Undercover work has got to be the most nerve-racking job in the world, and she's not even a cop."

But the man from the FBI was not yet ready to answer that question.

Seven minutes later, the double doors burst open and the first students tumbled out into the spring air, heading for the coffeehouse. After a pause, they were followed by the main body of participants, walking more thoughtfully and talking among themselves. When this larger group began to thin out, Glen got to his feet and turned to face the hall, pausing to run his palms over his hair and straighten his necktie. This was the first sign of nerves Gillian had seen in him, and it surprised her; since they had met ten days before, she had found McCarthy more idiosyncratic than the caricature of the FBI man, but every bit as cold and competent as the most stiff-necked of them.

Agent and police detective walked back through the double glass doors and down the hallway to the big lecture hall, where they again took up positions on the flat walkway that circled the top tier of seats. Gillian was seething with impatience; she did not at all like the feeling of being kept in the dark. McCarthy had his hands in his pockets, his feet set apart and his head drooping as he gazed down the length of the hall at Anne Waverly, who was now discussing papers, projects, and reading material with the six or eight remaining students.

She put off noticing the intruders for as long as she could--until, in fact, one of the students touched her arm and leaned forward to speak into her ear. She stood very still for three long seconds, then with great deliberation pulled off her reading glasses and slowly raised her eyes to the two figures on the high ground at the back of her lecture hall.

Her expression did not change, but even from on high Gillian Farmer could feel the impact their presence had on her. When the woman bent her head again and slid the glasses back onto her nose, she still looked strong, but she seemed older, somewhat flattened, and her uncharacteristic distraction from the words of her students was obvious. The young men and women knew that something was up and grew taut with a curiosity that verged on alarm; however, when eventually she wished them a good week, they could only disperse, reluctantly, and make their slow and suspicious way up the stairs and past the two intruders.

One boy, however, found retreat more than he could bear. He scowled at Glen as he went by, and then turned back to the podium to ask loudly, "Do you want some help, Dr. W?" His stance even more than his words made it obvious that he was offering an assistance considerably more physical than merely carrying her books, but McCarthy was careful not to smile, and Gillian Farmer merely glanced at the boy.

The woman he had called "Dr. W" did smile. "Thank you, Josh, I'll be fine."

Their protests unvoiced, the students left, with a furtive rush of low conversation that was cut off when the glass doors shut behind them. The lecturer turned her back on McCarthy and Farmer, gathering up her papers from the table and pushing them into an old leather briefcase. She buckled the case, took it up in her right hand and the cane in her left, and started for the steps, her very posture vibrating with displeasure.

Each stair was deep enough for two short footsteps, which was how she took them, leading with her right, bringing her left foot up, and taking another step with her right foot. She seemed to depend on the cane more for balance than sheer support, Gillian decided while watching the professor's slow approach. And it was the knee, she thought, rather than the hip, that was weak. Other than that, she was in good shape for a woman in her mid-forties, perhaps a vigorous fifty. Her back was straight, her graying hair worn as loose as that of her students, curling softly down on her shoulders. Her clothing, though, was far from a student's uniform of jeans and T-shirt. She was dressed in the sort of professional clothing a woman wears who does not care for dresses: khaki trousers, sturdy shoes that were almost boots, a light green linen shirt that seemed remarkably free of creases for the tail end of a day, and a dark green blazer shot through with blue threads. The clothes seemed a great deal more formal than those of the other adult women on the campus, Gillian thought, and found herself wondering about the professor's status in the tenure stakes.

At the top of the stairs, the woman neither paused nor looked up, but merely said to the carpeting, "Come to my office, please."

They followed obediently, submitting to the hard looks of the handful of students who hovered in the distance to be quite sure their professor did not need assistance. She ignored them, as did McCarthy. Farmer tried to avoid looking as though she was escorting a prisoner, with limited success.

They went down the paved path through some winter-bare trees and past a small patch of lawn, and into another building designed by the same architect as the hall. The lecturer unlocked a door and they followed her in, and Gillian revised her speculations: If her recollection of academia was correct, this was not the office of a woman with reason to fear a lack of tenure. The room looked, in fact, like that of a high administrator or department chair, a corner office complete with Oriental carpet and wooden desk--although surely an administrator would not be surrounded by shelves sagging under the weight of books and piled high with untidy heaps of journals and loose manuscripts. The professor slammed her briefcase on the desk, dropped the keys she had just used into her jacket pocket, hooked her cane over the edge of the desk, and sat down.

"Close the door, Glen."

McCarthy shut the door and settled into one of the three chairs arrayed in front of the desk. Gillian Farmer tucked the strap of her shoulder bag over the back of one of the other chairs, hesitated, and took a step forward with her hand out.

"Gillian Farmer," she said. "San Francisco Police Department."

The professor looked at the hand for a moment before reaching out to take it with her own. "Anne Waverly, Duncan Point University. And occasionally FBI. Glen, what are you doing here? I thought I was finished with you."

He did not say a word, but without taking his eyes from hers he reached inside his jacket and withdrew a thick, oversized manila envelope. This he laid softly on the wooden surface between them, allowing his fingers to remain for some seconds on the buff paper before he pulled his hand back. Anne Waverly tore her gaze away from his and stared at the envelope as if it might sprout scaly skin and rear up to strike her. When eventually she looked back at him, for the first time since she had seen them standing at the back of her lecture hall she gave them an expression, one that lay somewhere between exhaustion and loathing.

"Get out of here, Glen."

He immediately stood up. "My cell phone number's in there. Don't wait too long to call--Farmer here has to get back to her caseload."

The two intruders left the office. McCarthy closed the door quietly behind them and strode off down the hallway.

"So much for "whatever works,'" Gillian Farmer said when she caught up to him. Her mind was already moving toward what she could do next, now that Anne Waverly had turned them down. She did not have many options left: The thought of being forced to do nothing filled her with deep apprehension.

"She'll do it." McCarthy sounded completely sure of himself.

"For Christ sake, Glen, she threw us out of her office."

"She won't be able to keep away."

"Oh, right," she said sarcastically. "She sounded so enthusiastic."

"I didn't say she'd want to do it. I said she wouldn't be able to help herself."

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Darker Place 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
klminNC More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent story, and really pulls the reader in. It is also very dark, in more ways than one. I highly recommend it and feel that I have discovered a great story teller in Laurie King.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having read Laurie R. King's Mary Russel/Sherlock Holmes series, I was not disappointed! King really knows how to develop her characters. The story has so many twists and turns, leaving you wanting to keep reading to the very end without stopping. The sexually explicit scene was totally unnecessary to the plot, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to reading more in the series.
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
A strong potboiler from author Laurie R. King. A college professor who is an expert in 'cult' religious organizations and their operation, gets 'selected' by the FBI for undercover work in an Arizona based religious group. She has done this job before, sometimes not so successfully. Her own past is muddied with unresolved conflicts over events that took her family (husband and young daughter) from her. The assignment turns much more personal when the first person she meets in Arizona is a young girl that strongly resembles her own lost daughter! Can she separate the personal issues from the job she was sent to do? I found myself very engaged in the characters and the plot. What exactly makes a religious group a cult? What is just acceptable fervor and what crosses the line? I especially liked how the story took us inside the group, adding a human face to a subject too often publicly reported in glaring horrific headlines. These and other provoking questions are raised as the story moves forward. I hope the author plots another story with the same main characters.
JeanneMarkert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An respected university professor, Anne Waverly is also an FBI operative wo goes undercover into a cult.
Fullmoonblue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first Laurie King book I've read, and I have to say it was pretty impressive. It definitely showed me what it means to call something a 'literary thriller'. I finished it in just under two days -- quite a page-turner! The main character is a university professor who goes undercover in a cult, and the book is scattered with excerpts from her notes and presentations and publications. I found the Arizona section of the book far more convincing than the portion that takes place in England, though, and was somewhat disappointed by the final thirty pages or so. After such build-up, I wanted something explosive. And there was an explosion, but it seemed relatively tame. King left the ending open for a sequel, though, so hopefully if Professor Waverly ever returns her next adventure will end with a bigger bang.
cmparkhurst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. This is the first of Laurie King's work that I have read and I will look for more of her books. I enjoyed the subject matter, the conflict and the outcome.
pinkozcat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Laurie R King has a gift for painting her characters in three dimensions so that the reader becomes totally immersed in the story.I found the book hard to put down and remained totally involved with the story right to the last page. This is a thriller which has an unpredictable ending which keeps the tension high and the reader guessing to the last paragraph.
iluvvideo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A strong potboiler from author Laurie R. King.A college professor who is an expert in 'cult' religious organizations and their operation, gets 'selected' by the FBI for undercover work in an Arizona based religious group. She has done this job before, sometimes not so successfully. Her own past is muddied with unresolved conflicts over events that took her family (husband and young daughter) from her. The assignment turns much more personal when the first person she meets in Arizona is a young girl that strongly resembles her own lost daughter! Can she separate the personal issues from the job she was sent to do?I found myself very engaged in the characters and the plot. What exactly makes a religious group a cult? What is just acceptable fervor and what crosses the line? I especially liked how the story took us inside the group, adding a human face to a subject too often publicly reported in glaring horrific headlines. These and other provoking questions are raised as the story moves forward. I hope the author plots another story with the same main characters.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This had more eroticism than I like, but I think it was necessary to the plot and story. Being a Laurie King novel, it was thought-provoking, instructional and very hard to put down. Good story, but not one I can recommend to my daughter or keep on my shelves.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Laurie King has a Master's Degree in theology from Union Theological Seminary; religion has been a life-long interest, not to say passion. The subject shows up in a number of her works, mainly the Mary Russell series, and in this, a stand-alone novel, although it makes an appearance in the Kate Martinelli series as well.The protagonist of A Darker Place is Anne Waverley, a middle-aged professor in an Oregon university. Anne's specialty--alternative religious movements--has involved her in FBI investigations of suspect religious communities, evaluating these for signs of incipient instability and potential degeneration into violence. Anne's background is one of horrendous loss of husband and daughter to such a scenario, and her work for the FBI is in part atonement for surviving--she had left the community to ponder whether to continue in it when the slaughter erupted.But she has come to a certain acceptance if not peace, and she is reluctant to become involved in this latest investigation. She does, however--and it becomes for her an emotional trap as well as a deadly dangerous mission. The result is an enthralling thriller with a hair-raising climax.What King does as well as tell a powerful story is to educate the reader on alternative religious communities. Nearly every chapter starts with either a page from one of Anne's lectures on the subject, either at the university or for an FBI seminar, and the fsascinating material adds immensely to the quality of the story. The title describes the theme of the book--a dark place into which the search for God and religious experience can lead.While I am a devoted fan of Laurie King's Mary Russell series, A Darker Place remains my favorite of her works. It is well-written, tightly plotted and infused with power.
devenish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What the heck is going on here.The protagonist seems to me to be bonkers.After struggling through about 90 pages of drivel I had to give it up as just not worth the effort.
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Love_to_readSL More than 1 year ago
This book really develops the back story of the main character, Anne Waverly, someone who was once a cult member but left, and lost her daughter and husband. Thought not an FBI agent, she is investigating for them a "new age" religious cult in the Southwest, but ends up following two children to one of the branches to England. She becomes deeply emeshed as she begins to care about two children in the cult, one of whom reminds her of her daughter. It was a page-turner, with complex development and highly enjoyable. It was the first book I read by the author, and promptly went to purchase 3 more. I would love for the author to continue to write about this character.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was outstanding. I especially loved the heroine, an ex-cult member, who is now helping the FBI to prevent tragedies like WACO from happening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Love Love Love this author. Highly recommended...ALL of her books are soo interesting! Have loved every major character in the three series she has written. Am looking forward to more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely terrifying. Good grief, it gives insight into a cult practice that I'm not sure that I wanted to know. I did notice a comman theme with King's book 'Folly,' that is, widow with loss of a child, an outside topic that drives the action, and always the process of looking into the inner self. Not Stephen King dark, but dark!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Darker place was a very inspiring book about an x-cult member who helps out the F.B.I. see if some cults in the U.S.A. are going to blow-up in our faces. This book takes an interesting look at cults in America and how they affect non-cult people as a whole. In-deepth phychology and reflections make you want to give Anne Waverly advice on her dangerous mission. This book highly recomended by mio and by many newspapers and magazines.
meladolce More than 1 year ago
In this novel, King creates a world that will be unfamiliar to most of us. The story follows its own unique path, building a sense that there are things here that we don't want to know, yet there they are, just below the surface of the action. King, a skilled writer, weaves fact with fiction and uses this growing sense of discomfort to keep us hanging on, looking forward to the next revelation. King has chosen a fascinating and unusual way of introducing each section of the story. She uses headings taken from a book written in 1652 about "alchymie," in archaic English that she has modernized. The headings, the definitions of the headings, and the "Notes from Anne Waverly's Journal" throughout the novel, add much to its other-worldly feel. Readers who skip over these will lose some of the sense of the novel. The central actor in this story, Professor Anne Waverly, teaches undergraduate courses in religion, and occasionally works incognito with the FBI, primarily in breaking up cults. She is now risking her mental equilibrium and possibly even her life, to become Ana Wakefield, and go undercover to find the truth about an unusual cult-like organization called Change. The commune/cult-what it really is is unclear-is named after its founder, who calls himself Steven Change. Each of the members is searching for some sort of change in his or her life, some for themselves, some for their children as well. When she gets to know two children, one a teen, the other a small girl who reminds her of her dead daughter, both grab Ana's heart and become central to her thoughts and actions. Ana carefully and gradually immerses herself in the odd, mysterious, and murky culture of Change and its quirky inhabitants, people of various ages and degrees of education and sophistication. The characters King places in the story are not just the people, but the place itself. For example, imagine a "meditation" room, huge, high ceilinged, along whose walls are platforms set at various heights, on which members sit during "meditation." All the property that encompasses Change is itself part of the action. Bit by bit, over the weeks, Ana watches and listens, works to gain the confidence of others in the group, snoops around the property, inside and out, when she can get away with it. Eventually she pieces together what she believes is happening within the walls of Change. She then sets about to learn whether what she surmises is actually what it is. Soon enough, she realizes that it is up to her to get the two youngsters out of the commune and the danger she suspects it poses. From beginning to end, the reader senses that there is a real threat to Ana, not just a physical one, but that the memories of the loss of her family through another cult may affect her judgment in ways that can put her and the two children in jeopardy. King leads the reader through the maze to a conclusion that maintains suspense until the last sentence. When I finished A Darker Place, I had not only had an interesting and engaging experience in Anna/Ana's world, but had many a philosophical discourse with myself, learned a good deal about alchemy and science, cults and what they are and are not-and what may inspire people to attempt to hide themselves away from the world. I hope you'll have a similar reading experience. It's not an easy book, but one well worth the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She watched curiously.