Anne Waverly, university lecturer and sometime FBI consultant, lives with the curse of a tragic past—the horrific deaths of her husband and beloved daughter Abby in a mass suicide pact. No one knows what she has suffered better than Glen McCarthy, an FBI expert in cult behavior.
As a professor of new religious movements, Anne is called on by McCarthy over the years to help solve certain FBI cases and Anne, in an attempt to atone for the long-ago tragedy, has never refused him. Until now.
But Anne finds she can't say no to this particular case: a religious community out in the desert that looks as though it has the seeds of dangerous fervor. Slowly Anne works her way into the life of the community, and there meets two children, one of whom reminds her strongly of Abby, and suddenly she finds herself involved at a level that could be fatal…
The success of the novel comes from its slow revelation of the back story, which illuminates the major players: Anne Waverly, Glen McCarthy, and the people of Change. King brilliantly portrays the psychological split that drives Anne to self-destruction, both in her sexual relationships and in her self-effacing work for the FBI. Though a respected university professor and expert on cults, Anne Waverly was once a cultist herself. For 18 years she has struggled with personal tragedies that wrenched her from that experience, and she has dedicated herself (through academic labor and her covert work for the FBI) to saving the lives of others who become embroiled in religious fanaticism. Now, despite a vow that she has ended her relationship with the FBI and its work in defusing cults, she returns for one last effort at the request of Agent McCarthy. Anne cuts her hair, changes her name, and gradually loses herself in her new role as a member of Change. But her investigation soon becomes a journey into her own psyche, into the dark places of her past, as she sees her own life played out again in the members of the cult.
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