Sister Madeleine

(creator: Cash Peters)

Cash Peters
Sister Madeleine had been in the "beyond eccentric" English convent of St Winifred's for 35 years or so. She is now a tough old nun in her sixties with a face which boasts a pair of wire-framed spectacles. Before that, she had been a senior officer in a sinister secret organisation, "a network of mercenaries whose members moved mainly in elite spying and terrorism circles". They were ruled by an "executive manual. The manual was the law. It dictated every stage of every protocol down to the last detail, including whom to kill, how, when to do it, and so on." Unfortunately for them, most members belonged to the perishable class and were disposed of, one by one. But never mind, "Under Executive rules, no member could ever get knocked off before his or her time." You may wonder why members were attracted to such a life. It is explained they were enticed to join by a glossy booklet offering them a timeshare holiday in Interlaken!

Madelyn Spree had been a high ranking commander, but had blotted her copybook as the leader of a disasterous mission and then by running away with the organisation's highly secret book of Codes. She had taken refuge at the convent of the Daughters of Inestimable Virtue. It had seemed like a prison sentence to begin with, but thanks to God's grace and some natural fortitude, she'd come to rather enjoy it. And it had given her "the opportunity to atone for her sins and make peace with a wayward past."

Her training stood her in good stead when confronted with physical danger (as she repeatedly is) as she can use a whole range of classic moves straight out of the Academy martial arts correspondence course workbook, such as the Goat-Butt Squeeze and Flick that turns her opponent's arms inside out and sends him flying out through the window. She has no compunction about using extreme violence as and when necessary, and isn't averse to exclaiming "Bugger and damn" when things get difficult, as they frequently do. And although "Revenge, she knew, was a sinful motivation for any human action and never justified", she was quite prepared to settle old scores by running up to a traitor's corpse and punching him "three times hard in the balls".

She has a "plummy British voice and penetrating eyes that always seemed to be inspecting, judging, and dissecting everyone's every move." She takes her rather unusual religious beliefs quite seriously and insists on wearing her habit and wimple throughout. She was convinced that "There was no room beneath the broad tent of true Christianity for racists and bigots of any stripe, even though, historically speaking, that's where most of them came from."

Cash(man) Peters (1960 - ) was born in Stockport, England. He began selling scripts to the BBC at the age of 15. After graduating from university with a law degree he worked for eight years as the clerk to a High Court judge in London, also becoming a part-time TV reporter. He then became a full-time and award-winning full-time journalist and commentator. In 1997 he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he lives with his (presumably male) partner.

However, he thinks that his greatest claim to fame lies in the fact that he is "one of the world's foremost handwriting analysts", about which he has written three books. He offers his intuitive skills (offering you a greater understanding of yourself) via email for a suggested "donation" of $145.

He has also published travel memoirs (he had his own adventure series on TV that ran for two seasons on Travel Channel in the US) and, in what he says is the fulfilment of a childhood dream, two mystery novels, the first of which features Sister Madeleine which is available on kindle and is reviewed below. He has also written a long series of Muriel Wang mysteries.

Force of Habit: Sister Madeleine Investigates (2012)
Force of Habit describes how, when news reaches Sister Madeleine that her old friend Howard Barley, a global publishing tycoon, has died in bizarre circumstances, she is shocked and extremely suspicious. Even more so when she learns that Howard left his entire estate to her. She feels obliged to abandon the familiar comforts of the preposterous St. Winifred's convent, where nuns worship in a knitted chapel, and there is, at the gate, "an Intercommunication device. Use only in emergencies", consisting of "a length of frayed string connected to a rusty old soup-can resting on the floor." They have a buggy, but it is pulled, not by horses, but by teenage nuns.

They revere the memory of their founder, St Winifred of Judaea (17 BC-54 AD), who had happened to have been staying in a Bethlehem inn when she "was awoken by a commotion in the yard and a blinding light" and squinted out of her window "to witness a baby being born in the stall filled with straw. From that moment on, she had become a devout convert and follower of Christ. Literally a follower as, for the next 33 years, Jesus couldn't shake her off." She even climbed up onto His cross to offer him a sandwich.

In case you find this hard to believe, the author provides a footnote that refers us to further reading: Chaste Woman, Chased Messiah - Jesus's stalker revealed." All entirely fictitious, of course, and some people will find this highly offensive. I was quite amused, on the other hand, when we were told that, "Considering the original scriptures too wordy, Mother Winifred is credited by scholars with removing much of what she continued 'extraneous material' from early drafts of the Bible. As well as trimming the original 84 commandments down to a more manageable ten, she expunged all mentions of herself from the New Testament, along with many revealing biographical notes about Jesus's life and a significant portion of his teachings." This included verses that "explained in clear language how Jesus was not only totally cool with homosexuality but had many gay friends, and even preached during his sermons that, since God made gay people in the first place, whatever they did with their lives was fine by the Lord. Furthermore, he said, all differences between people should be embraced; love and acceptance were preferable to hatred and division, and the only real sins were bigotry, discrimination, lack of forgiveness, and twisting God's word around to mean what ever you wanted it to mean." It sounds very much as though these may have been the author's own thoughts.

But to get back to the plot: Madeleine and the young postulant Roberta (who has to hesitatingly remind her that "K-killing people is one of the Seventy-one F-forbidden Practices") take up residence in Milkwood Hall, the billionaire's mansion in Los Angeles, and are soon finding human remains, shaking floors, a freezer full of corpses, and strangers roaming the grounds, all the work of the sinister organization of which she was once a part and which is still trying to hunt her down.

It is, of course, a totally preposterous story, that includes an apparent plot to assassinate the President of the USA who happens at this time to be Mohammed Hussein, an openly gay black Muslim. However, it gives Madeleine a chance to work her way through her vast range of combat skills ranging from the Snapping Lobster Claw, a "move straight out of the manual's chapter on 20 ways to Subdue a Man or Woman of the Cloth", to the Variable Goat-Stance, the Coat-hanger Grip, and the Turkey Neck Plunge. At first all this is amusing enough but after a time the joke begins to wear thin, although I must admit that I enjoyed the part where, after describing a large-scale murderous assault complete with explosions and destruction on all sides, the author offers this reason why the cops (eventually) arrived: "One of the neighbours must have complained about the noise."

According to the author's website, the book is "NOW - UPDATED, IMPROVED, AND MORE EXCITING THAN EVER! .... You're going to LOVE it." Well. either that, or you'll dismiss it as a load of nonsense, full, as it is, of words like "UHHHHHHHHHH!" and "Aaaaaaaaaagh!" and "BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM" and "THUNHGGGGGG" (the latter to represent the sound of a grandfather clock). I enjoyed much of it (such as the restaurant name Pasta Caring) although a few parts seemed gratuitously offensive or even rather nasty, as when we get a graphic description of a man being transformed into a pillar of fire and melting away. Even Madeleine herself ends up by complaining, "I want no part in this silliness."

It is certainly based on a bright idea but one that proves difficult to sustain and, after a time, it all begins to get a bit tedious. The author is at his best with comic one-liners (on one occasion he refers to somebody living in the Islets of Langerhans or to the criminals' encyclopaedia known as Wickedpedia) and if you enjoy this sort of wit and would welcome a completely different sort of nun, you might like to give it a try. It's certainly original.

The author has his own website although it gets rather confusing as it keeps passing you on to other sites about him instead of being complete in itself.

Please sign my GUEST BOOK. All comments, contributions (or corrections) welcomed!


Force of Habit cover
The cover effectively suggests that she knows more than she is telling. The book should not be confused with Force of Habit by Alice Loweecey.

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