cover image Overnight Float

Overnight Float

Clare Munnings. W. W. Norton & Company, $23.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03849-1

The groves of academe provide a bucolic but menacing backdrop for this witty murder mystery of manners, set at Sanderson, a Vermont women's college. Rosemary Stubbs, the new chaplain and a former computer firm CFO, has made an abrupt career shift following her husband's tragic drowning. At Sanderson, she finds conversation seasoned with such subjects as Greek lyric poets, molecular biology, fine wines and rowing machines. The college's finances, however, are shaky. Budget cuts to athletic programs have ruffled assorted feathers. When a school administrator's corpse surfaces in a swimming pool, Stubbs, still grieving over her husband's death, must now minister to friends and foes of the deceased. Pastoring issues, such as selecting hymns and delivering sermons, arise intermittently and strengthen the credibility of Stubbs's character, while a attraction to Scotch gives her additional dimension. A prodigious suspect list includes other college administrators and trustees, disgruntled professors, disaffected coaches and even some student athletes. Though the story's pace droops at times, the author knows her field and is adept at slipping important details into the book's many casual moments. In Rosemary Stubbs, Mullings has created a savvy and appealing entry to the ranks of cleric-sleuths. (Sept.) FYI: Clare Munnings is the pseudonym for Jill Ker Conway, former president of Smith College, and Elizabeth T. Kennan, former president of Mount Holyoke College.