UnCatholic Conduct

UnCatholic Conduct - Stevie Mikayne Private eye Jil is offered a case to look into the private lives of teachers and administrators in a Catholic high school to see if they're complying with the 'morality clause' stated in their contracts. The fact that she has to dig into what amounts to people's private lives rings all kinds of alarm bells with Jil, from privacy to ethical to legal issues. Add to that the fact the she's an out lesbian makes the whole assignment even more ridiculous and hypocritical. But the money is good and her boss' PI firm is one step from folding up, so...

Jil goes undercover as a substitute teacher while she spies on her fellow teachers and the hot principal and other assorted characters who help her run the school. In the course of Jil's 'investigation', a student suicide rocks the school. Strange things happen afterwards. The school gets repeatedly vandalized, valuables go missing, students get threatened, and someone seems to be 'on' to Jil's charade. Amidst all that, Jil finds herself very attracted to the principal Jess, who seems to harbor some deep and dark secret of her own.

This is a very complicated mystery. A mystery on top of another, and yet another. Like a nested Russian doll. I like how the overall mystery is structured. But the pacing is a little slow. The usual student bullying, school vandalism, student shenanigans, teacher intrigues that are common in schools everywhere don't make for a very compelling read, and just left me mostly bored and wondering where this is all leading to.

Things did not perk up for me until well after the midpoint mark, when Jess and Jil are physically thrown together for that long smouldering spark to finally ignite. Their relationship is highly inappropriate in every sense (new teacher & principal, PI and target) which of course is exactly why it is so delicious and fun to read about. Jess is the quintessential uptight, always-in-control and all-business principal. But she is also an enigma. Married, but no husband in sight. No divorce records. No social media presence. What is she hiding? Jill is intrigued and smitten. But how do you navigate relationships when you're not really who you are? Where does she draw the line? And how will she ever explain it to Jess? Can love be founded on a lie?

The biggest issue I have with the book is with the motivation behind why Jil was being hired to investigate uncatholic conduct. The whole uncatholic conduct investigation is just a sham--a cover for what the school superintendent who hired Jil wants her to really uncover: a sinister anti-gay conspiracy in the school involving a shadowy group of students whose tentacles supposedly extend beyond school and follow one for life. While I understand the need for discretion, what he did effectively hamstrung Jill unnecessarily in her job. From a practical standpoint, it doesn't make any sense. It is inefficient at best, and outright dangerous at worst. Fortunately for him, Jill just couldn't let it go. But it was technically beyond what she was being paid to do. Other issues: How does a popular teenage girl fake their own death and fool an entire school and community? Why would a thief stash his valuable and very illegal hoard inside the school premises? Why doesn't Jill use the cctv system to see who is the sneaking her SOA love notes? Or at least more actively investigate these incidents, and who the SOA is. She could have asked around. Chatted with students more. It was like she was just biding her time and waiting for something big to happen. And of course, things are going to escalate. And if the SOA is that secretive (as per VP's pronouncements), why announce their presence to the world with a distinctive seal? And finally, the all-too-common but very unlikely tell-all at the end. Call me a cynic but I'm not a big believer of confessions.

While the book is a mystery first and foremost, I enjoyed the romantic subplot more. This book has realistic characters who aren't afraid to go for what they want and don't spend half a book thinking and worrying about it (just a few pages will do, ;) ). The relationship doesn't get as much attention here as the mysterious goings-on, but it will in the second book [b:Illicit Artifacts|25159369|Illicit Artifacts|Stevie Mikayne|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1444152572s/25159369.jpg|44862906], which I enjoyed more than the first. I know this sounds weird in a review of the first book but its a consequence of reading the books out of order. 8) In fact I enjoyed the second book a lot even if I hadn't read this. But starting with this book will give you a much better grasp of the relationship between Jill and Jess, which is why you'd want to pick up both books :)

4.25 stars

P.S.: Mysteries aren't exactly known for their erotic scenes but this book's are really hot.