Sister Justus

(creator: Debbie DeCeco Lannen)

Debbie Lannen
Sister Justus was born and raised in Houghton, a small town in Michigan. Immediately after her graduation from Houghton High School, she entered a convent, expecting to spend her life in the rural farming community. But "God had different plans for her" and she was sent to be a counsellor, comforting patients at St Mary's, a busy city hospital in Detroit where she looked after herself in an apartment. She had been there 10 years when our story opens (it had been 20 years since she had taken her vows but she remains surprisingly naive in some of her religious questioning). She "realised she was just a very small part of God's plan, but sometimes she felt she needed more information. She needed to know why. She needed to know the purpose. She needed answers." But, once she had decided on a course of action, nothing would stop her.

Debbie DeCeco Lannen grew up and lived most of her life in and around Detroit, MI, where she was educated in a Catholic school, an experience for which she remains grateful. She became a playwright, theatre director, and children's book author. As an adopting parent she wrote an accounting of the process in her book, We Won You in a Raffle. New Justice (reviewed below) was her first detective story. She self-publishes her books.

New Justice (2015)
New Justice describes how one night a badly wounded young college student is rushed into the hospital emergency unit. Sister Justus promises not only to pray for her but to stay by her bedside and, improbably, tells her, "I will not rest until the monster who hurt you is found." She knew that "This was a job for detectives and police, not a sister devoted to the Church .... But logic never was one of her strong suits. Once she set her mind to something, no matter how difficult or even totally absurd, she would be obsessed until it came to a resolution." So she set about tracking down the policeman in charge of the case, the particularly obnoxious and aggressively macho Detective Montgomery. And she provides us with some entertaining moments by standing up to him, at times almost taking over from him! And even death threats do not deter her.

The author often chooses to call her just "Sister" which makes her strangely impersonal and distances us from her. The dialogue lacks the sparkle that you might have hoped for from an author who is a dramatist, and there is a clumsiness in explaining the plot as when the murderer's accomplice tells the murderer, "No one was supposed to get hurt. This was a very simple drug thing. I cut the drugs out of our lab specimens and give them to you. You sell them to someone else and we split the cash. That was it! No violence. Definitely no murder. Just an easy drug."

The story is not too probable and there are some unlikely coincidences. There is a lack of humor too, and what there is is unintentional as when "Sister" tells Detective Montgomery that she has discovered the identity of one of the criminals and he, we are told,"seemed to be interested." There is some real excitement in a lab sequence when she identifies the voice of a man who threatened her over the phone, but the author fails to make the most of such incidents as his capture and the subsequent arrest of the murderer, neither of which are described at all.

It all ends with yet another dying person begging '"Sister" to find his attackers. Stroking the man's hair, she whispered, "I promise." Her responsibilities as a counsellor seemed to have flown out of the window.

The author has her own website.

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New Justice cover
The cover, with its bottom-heavy layout, looks rather home-made.
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