Tired of all those mysterious campuses where the faculty never convenes except to swap bon mots and ridicule each others’ scholarship as trendy, cheap, and false? Then you’ll love Vermont’s Sanderson College, whose staff, in meetings and out, are quite properly obsessed with the real force driving American higher education today: money. Rosemary Stubbs, who left a successful career as a computer company’s chief financial officer to go to divinity school after her husband was killed in a solo boating accident, begins her stint as chaplain to Sanderson’s 1,800 female undergraduates to learn that her knack with numbers is in at least as much demand as her rapport with students. Hardly has appealingly ardent Rosemary unpacked when she finds the body of Blanche Werner, the treasurer who’d improbably recruited her for the post, floating in the Olympic-sized pool in the college’s spanking-new athletic center. The disarray of Sanderson’s fiduciary affairs, which has set the trustees, the athletic coaches, and the faculty (the latter not much in evidence here) at each others’ throats, clearly points to a financial motive, but don’t bother competing with Rosemary to find it; this isn’t one of those detective stories weighed down by a whole lot of clues.
The pseudonymous team of Jill Ker Conway (When Memory Speaks, 1998, etc.) and former Mount Holyoke president Elizabeth Kennan bring us a mystery without any more mystery than its Amanda Cross models, but also without Cross’s wit, humor, or intellectual depth. There’s lots of talk about cost-cutting and maximizing investment return, though, and Rosemary can pick a good glass of wine.