Playful, But Not Enough
Force of Habit by James Scott Bell is a short read at 52-Kindle pages about a former actress turned nun that becomes a “vigilante” who “cleans up the streets of Los Angeles,” according to the book’s blurb.
With a premise like that, I was definitely intrigued and picked it up when it was on sale for free.
I was entertained, but I was also left wanting more in a not-so-excited way.
What I Thought Worked Well
Character and Style
The protagonist, aptly named Sister Justicia Marie (though she goes by “Sister J”), is given the comedic, witty writing style that she deserves. Thanks to narration and character weaving together, the book had many humorous gems sprinkled throughout, like this one:
Sister J ate more Fritos. For her, Fritos were a balm, a comfort. There were vows of silence, and vows of chastity and poverty. But there were no vows she knew of to abstain from corn chips.”
In the opening scene, we see that Sister J has a temper, which eventually leads to her breaking a stranger’s finger, and a penchant for junk food. These details and her overall characterization make her a compelling character to follow. She’s a complete contrast from the nun tropes we’re used to.
Yet what I had trouble buying into was how she came to be a vigilante from her acting days.
What I Thought Didn’t Work Well
Plot and Theme
One of the interesting selling points of the work is that before Sister Justicia Marie was a sister, she was a notorious actress. And yes, notorious, as in famous for some not-so-good reasons and not being treated well. But because she was an actress in the past, she has martial arts training from preparing for a film and other skills and knowledge a “normal” nun wouldn’t have. This way, when she takes justice into her own hands and disarms a robber with Krav Maga, it’s believable.
But while these things are believable and interesting, I wanted to know more about her internal struggles and how she was changing as a character. And I felt like I didn’t get any of that.
I realize that this is a short book, and that there are three others in the series, so this is a bit of an introduction into her world. But without the hint of an arc and her questioning her choices and profession, the story felt like a collection of gimmicks to entice me rather than a deep, compelling narrative.
I admit that this review I’m writing will be biased, because I haven’t read that many detective stories, or stories that are a blend of comedy and detective grit. So, take my words or leave them.
Overall, I found it a quick read that had me chuckling a few times. And while I wasn’t head-over-heels in love, I might give the other three a shot later.
3 out of 5 Stars