Former Australian Security Service officer Charlie Jones is back, and a convent’s got her, but it’s not long before she’s raising holy hell to save the pope in this welcome sequel.
Introduced in Slee’s B.U.G. (2016), Jones has gotten herself to a nunnery after being “knocked unconscious three times, stabbed once, had my girlfriend kidnapped and then getting blown up.” Now her life is changing bedpans and making broccoli soup. “It’s all I want right now,” she states. But that’s not what fans of this unconventional heroine want, and it’s not long before their prayers are answered. As a visit to Australia by Pope Michael the First approaches, a credible threat against him emerges, and Jones’ “special skills” are required to protect him. The archbishop recruits her to be his head of security, a post she wastes no time using to her advantage. Jones has a bit of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander in her: she’s a very un-nunlike badass who rides a Vespa, wears a leather jacket, and sports close-cropped hair and a diamond nose stud. She casually one-ups top cops and stuffy Vatican representatives with her characteristic no-nonsense lack of tact. “Are you going to treat everyone like this?” an associate asks. “This might be fun after all.” It stops being fun soon enough, as the threat proves to be very real. “It seems wherever you are, disaster follows, Jones,” a superior tells her at one point. The assassination plot is all too credible and Slee advances the story at a deliberate, inexorable pace. But it’s Jones’ cheeky, first-person narration that propels the narrative. Now that she has no secrets from readers—her sex was cleverly concealed through most of her inaugural adventure—they can become more invested in her. It’s not necessary to have read the first book, but after this, one may want to. The Australian patois isn’t hard to decipher (“You look like a complete freak in that clobber”). Chapter breaks, though, would have helped to build suspense and anticipation.
Readers may find that keeping up with Jones’ exploits could get to be a habit.