A Deadly Mission (The Olympia Brown Mysteries) by Judith Campbell
I heard about this series from the UUA World weekly e-newsletter I receive. The $.99 for the Kindle Edition turned out to be money very well spent.
The heroine of this series, Olympia Brown, is a college professor and a Unitarian Universalist minister. A Deadly Mission begins with Olympia hearing about the death of a of a student at her college. The girl had been involved with a group called the Boston Fellowship. Olympia had noticed the girl's behavior change, and her weight loss, and felt guilty that she hadn't tried to do more to reach out to her.
The start of the book is a little slow. The author spends some time establishing the world her characters live in, a small academic community in New England. We find out about her family and friends, etc. There's a long break between finding out about the girl's death and finding out any information about the Fellowship.
The book picked up the pace with the introduction of a new student at Olympia's college, Bethany Ruth. Bethany is a sweet girl from Oklahoma who comes from a very conservative Christian family. Olympia befriends the homesick girl and is alarmed for her when she finds out the bible study group she had encouraged her to attend led her to meeting members of the Boston Fellowship.
The story gets much more focused at this point, everything moves around how to save Bethany. Olympia's son tries to find out more and Olympia is threatened when the Fellowship finds out who he is. Olympia's priestly friend Father Jim discovers more deaths of college students in the area. These deaths all seemed like accidents at first, until further research reveals they all at the same cause of death, and were all members of the Fellowship who were trying to leave.
After having picked up and put down my Kindle several times over the past couple weeks, I got hooked in and stayed up til midnight last night to finish the story. The story is tragic in parts, exciting in others, and all too realistic. The hero characters (Olympia and her friends) have depth and history that drive them to help others, but they do this without immense wealth, magic or super powers. They are just intelligent people who care about others and have the courage to take action.