Verdict: COLD OATH's mystery is without much in the way of clues for the reader, but two appealing main characters and a sweetly innocent love story, along with a few interesting subplots and a realistic setting, make up for that.
Ryan Caldwell, a first-year student at the fictional Brandell College in southeastern Pennsylvania, is in his mid-twenties, having served in Afghanistan before enrolling in the Lutheran college. He plans to major in journalism and has a job at the school’s newspaper. At the newspaper’s office one afternoon, he hears a radio dispatcher call for an ambulance to be sent to the home of the college’s president. Ryan follows up to find the president, Dr. Albert Nicholson, unconscious. Trained in CPR, he offers to help and then accompanies Mrs. Nicholson to the hospital.
Dr. Nicholson’s unfortunate death leads to intense (and entirely believable) jockeying for the position of president among various members of the faculty and administration. At a meeting about this, Ryan meets the attractive young chaplain, Lori DeMarco. As an agnostic, he’s put off by her faith at first, but he can’t deny his interest in her as she also shows interest in him.
Ryan finds himself researching a variety of stories, including unreported cases of date rape on campus and the decades-old mystery of two murders in the college’s chapel. Flynt’s narrative moves along smoothly, interweaving Ryan’s reporting with his classes and student life. Ryan’s life is slightly shadowed by his military experiences, as he has nightmares and occasionally hears from fellow veterans, but his character also combines curiosity and the kind of dogged chasing down of leads one imagines typical of a reporter. His healthy cynicism allows him to resist attempts by various presidential candidates to influence him, but isn’t strong enough to keep him from gradually growing closer to Lori DeMarco. Flynt does a very nice job balancing their attraction with Lori’s resistance to a casual sexual hookup.
The book was edited–not perfectly, but well enough that a reader isn’t distracted from the narrative by mistakes. It’s a fairly fast and enjoyable read, with well-drawn characters and a believable college campus environment, although the solution to the mystery seems almost incidental to the story.
~Elizabeth Jewell for IndieReader