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.


  1. Chris on February 16, 2010 at 1:20 am

    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?


  2. jtb1951 on February 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    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!


  3. Em on June 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    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 on February 10, 2011 at 9:45 am

    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 on July 31, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    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 on July 31, 2013 at 11:22 pm

      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 on November 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm

        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 on July 14, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    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 on July 15, 2014 at 6:50 am

      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…

  7. Rose Hately on February 21, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    I’d like to see a follow-up to A Darker Place. I absolutely loved this book, but the ending left me wanting to know a lot more about subsequent events!

    • Laurie King on February 22, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      Me too! I do hope to write a sequel, one of these days…

  8. Mia Shinbrot on October 20, 2020 at 1:09 am

    I’m slowly reading through my books and deciding which to keep and which to cull, and I just finished “A Darker Place”. Halfway through, my reaction was, “The author really did her research.” Of course, I guessed that the secret of change was alchemy long before “alembic” was mentioned, but the section headings gave it away to anyone who has read a little about alchemy in the past.

    It’s trite to say I couldn’t put the book down, but it’s more or less true — I finally did stop before the end and went to bed, because I wanted to have a bit more of it to read with breakfast, but I could easily have read all of it in a single day if it had been shorter.

    I assumed that Anne adopted Dulcie and Jason, but I was hoping to see it — at least to see how they reacted to finding out who Anne really was and why she was there. I also found Jonas deeply scary (without him realizing how dangerous he really was to Ana and why she was afraid of him, I think), and I would have liked to see the final confrontation.

    Anyway, I too found this book engrossing, and I also would like to read a sequel.

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:43 am

      I would like to revisit that world, some day…
      And yes, I did an independent story quarter in university about alchemy.

  9. Celia on May 30, 2021 at 6:52 am

    How did Jason know Glen earlier as Mr. York? I must have missed that reference earlier in the book, and, though I looked back through, I couldn’t find it. I loved all the details and descriptions in the book, of characters, locations, religion, alchemy and all of their interactions. I have enjoyed all of your books and wait for new ones as they appear. Thank you for so many wonderful stories!

    • Laurie King on May 30, 2021 at 2:14 pm

      I had to crowd-source this reply, since it’s been a LOOOOOOng time since I was in that book. But one of my loyal readers says:

      “Glen goes under cover in chapter 18 as Glen York while Ana is in Sedona to check on her and return her journal. His cover story is he is a courier for the dentist and he makes friends with Dulcie. I can’t remember when Jason meets him. I think a couple of chapters later?”

      Perhaps it’s during the time that Glen meets Dulcie that he meets Jason as well.

      That help?

    • Laurie King on May 30, 2021 at 2:29 pm

      And she adds:
      Ah! And it is Dulcie who recognizes Glen in chapter 32 as Mr. York, not Jason (who actually never met him!).

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