The Binding Oath
The Binding Oath seeks to shed light on the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in a time and place in which most people don’t realize the organization was especially active.
It’s Prohibition-era Denver, and Liz O’Brien is bored with her job as society reporter for a local newspaper. She longs for the hard news assignments that her male colleagues are given. When she uncovers a Klan plot that involves bootlegging, blackmail and a murdered girl, she turns detective. Predictably, her editor is incredulous of her theories at first, but he turns out to be a good sport and lets her go after the story.
The characters are formulaic. Even the heroine seldom ventures out of a stereotypical “Nellie Bly” persona. She draws inferences that aren’t supported by the evidence in front of her, yet she’s always right. Secondary characters often don’t have clear motivations for their actions. Although he’s a cliché, the newspaper editor emerges as the most genuine and likeable personality.
Assuming this novel has some basis in fact, it’s quite an education in the history and methods of the Klan. It’s also redeemed somewhat by the author’s meticulous attention to historical detail. Ms. Downing does a fair job of evoking an atmosphere not unlike what we would expect to find in the early twentieth century American West. However, flaws in character and plot development exacerbated by ungainly prose diminish this work considerably.