A Darker Place

Each Tuesday during the Twenty Weeks of Buzz, I’ll post about a different one of my twenty books, with remarks, reflections, and snippets of information about the writing process. This week we visit A Darker Place, which was published in 1999.


Nearly all religions begin with personal revelation followed by a handful of convinced fanatics committed to their beliefs. At what point does an outsider religious movement become a recognized church? When does the description of “cult” no longer apply?


Because religion is a deeply personal thing, it is easy to forget—even to deny in the first place—that it can also be a technical study. How we human beings interact with our own, personal God, the language we use to talk with the Divine, what our beliefs say about us and how they reinforce our social structures are compelling ways to study the human animal.

Anne Waverley is a person for whom the two aspects of religion—the academic and the personal—converge. Her fascination with that juncture at which religious extremism either goes off the rails or turns towards religious conservatism has brought her to the attention of those whose jobs are to maintain the peace. She is an expert in the alchemy of belief. Law enforcement agencies have always had a hard time looking inside a tightly knit group, because they do not speak the language. Anne Waverley does.

Of course, because religion is so intensely personal, because it permeates every part of the believer’s world, it profoundly shapes how the believers treat their children. And in all the clashes between authority and religion, children are the most inflammatory of all the areas of concern.

Particularly when the community under investigation has settled in such inaccessible places as the high desert near Sedona and a mysterious and remote English gardens…

What the government needs is a trained, sensitive, fair-minded individual with the ability to blend invisibly into the group under investigation. A woman, say, who knows her religion both academically and personally. A woman with the background to feel if a “cult” is harmless, or on the edge of ignition.

A woman like Anne Waverley.

Comments

  1. The book that has left the strongest impression on me from first reading, and that has stayed in my subconscious since then; and thus all the more rich and resonant at my most recent re-reading… This is also the first LRK book that I thrust into new readers’ hands and tell them that they MUST read, and which, without exception, has every single one of them hooked.

    I was able to imagine this as all too possible and, in the past ten years, there have, of course, been cases coming to light which echo this. Having said that, for sheer story-telling powers, this was, for me, the book that has stood out over all the intervening years as No.1.

    One daft question for Laurie, though – was there a particular reason why the UK edition had the different title? (Which is very resonant, by the way – Birth of a New Moon). If I recall, we even had the publication ahead of the US edition! Harper did a beautiful cover design, too – could this go on the site?

    Chris

  2. Another serious-minded book and another of my favorites. Some of the best writing comes from authors dealing with subject matter with which they are deeply conversant and profoundly immersed in. That appears to be the case with Laurie and “A Darker Place” and it makes a real difference in developing a high quality story. Religious fanaticism, and its fallout, are topics which fascinate (and often appall) me, but they are important topics, imho. It’s about time for another read of a compelling story for me. Thank you, Laurie!

    John.

  3. I loved the glimpse into your religious scholarship (like in Monstrous Regiment) and delighted in Anne Waverly’s insights and voice. It did seem like the book ended extremely abruptly. I can imagine what happened to the characters–where they all ended up–but am wondering if you plan to revisit any of these characters in a new book (as with Folly & Keeping Watch). Please do!!!!

  4. Deborah Keep says:

    I do hope there will be a follow up at least of this wonderful book. I love them all and am gradually working through them one after the other. Thank you so much for the wonderful books, I have a lot of favourite authors but you have rocketed to the top spot.

  5. Chris Anne Hanson says:

    Though I am very fond of Kate & Mary, I would very much like to see Anne Waverly take another bow. Any plans for a reappearance?

    • Laurie King says:

      I would love to write a sequel to Darker Place, indeed. Maybe I can talk my publishers into one after the next Russell…

      • Karen Thompson says:

        I hope you will write a follow-up novel on Anne Waverly. I love ALL of your books, but A Darker Place is my absolute favorite. Please tell us what happened to Anne after the end of the book.

  6. Kim Palmer says:

    I read A Darker Place in one sitting. I found Anne to be anamazing person to get to know. I also found myself charmed by Stephen and wishing that I could actually talk to him. Glen is an enigma. I don’t think that he even knows what he really feels for Anne. Learning about alchemy, religion and cults was fascinating.I did find that the story ended abruptly. I know it has been awhile since it has been published, but will you be doing a new story with these characters? Thank you for your wonderful writing.

    • Laurie King says:

      Hi Kim, yes, I’d love to do a follow-up to Darker Place. We really need to know what happens with those two kids…

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