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A Vow of Chastity    by Veronica Black order for
Vow of Chastity
by Veronica Black
Order:  USA  Can
Ivy, 1993 (1992)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Sister Joan is a young (mid-thirties) nun who struggles with her rebellious impulses in order to achieve the lofty behaviour expected of members of theOrder of the Daughters of Compassion. In A Vow of Chastity, she finds herself drawn more deeply into the lives of her young students than is recommended by her order. Sister Joan is a bit unsettled by the unnaturally good behaviour of her little class, and also by a morbid poem written by one of them. Odd things go missing from the convent chapel - - flowers, candles, holy water, and a large crucifix that is returned before Sister Joan can even report its disappearance. Several adults in the community believe that evil is abroad. Taken all together, these occurrences cause her uneasiness.

Then one of her students is found dead, his body laid out in the chapel. Saddened and angered at the waste of so young a life, sister Joan pursues her own investigation. Sister Margaret, a cheerful lay sister whose duties include maintaining the convent's supplies, is also found murdered; and Sister Joan becomes more aggressive in her sleuthing. Her knowledge of her students and their affairs, aided by keen observations by her sister nuns, leads her to unmask an ugly, sordid secret, the source of the evil scented earlier.

Black presents a sympathetic, strong-minded heroine in an unusual setting. Sister Joan's religious community, with its lively assortment of good-hearted women, is sometimes a startling contrast to the cynicism we too often encounter in the secular world. The author paints a fascinating picture of an alternative way of life and the people who embrace it. A Vow of Chastity is a pleasant read, well-written and entertaining. Second in a series, it is likely that we can look forward to more adventures of Sister Joan.

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