A Conspiracy of Ravens (Avery Byrne #1), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Having discovered the work of Dharma Kelleher a few years ago, I have not been able to keep from devouring anything she publishes. In this, a series debut, Kelleher introduces a new protagonist who is still faced with criminal goings-on while trying to stay one step ahead of those who mean her harm. Kelleher addresses many social issues from the acceptance of being transgender to non-traditional stereotypes in 21st century society, perfect for the open-minded reader. Another successful publication by an author whose modesty matches her ability.

Avery Byrne has made a name for herself in Phoenix as one of the city’s great goth tattoo artists. When her girlfriend, Sam, is brutally murdered by a local mobster for stealing a large sum of money, Avery must go on the run. Struggling to stay one step ahead of those who are hurting her, Avery also addresses the reaction that many have to her being transgender.

While trying to keep her family safe and steer Sam’s killers towards the authorities, Avery finds herself trying to see who she can trust. This mobster has fingers in many pies with a long payroll. Turning to an acquaintance, Avery is able to cobble a path back to the city, though even that is fraught with issues.

Trying to avenge Sam’s death, Avery puts her neck out to lure the killers into the open, only the wonder if she made the right decision. Avery will have to work alongside Jinx Ballou, a former Phoenix cop turned bounty hunter, to make it right, with members of a Mexican cartel joining in on the action. Dharma Kelleher does well with this new series, holding true to her foundations while keeping things unique enough for readers to enjoy the journey.

I have enjoyed the work of Dharma Kelleher for the last number of years, enjoying the large learning curves she presents and moments to education myself about lifestyles with which I know little. Kelleher can write and spin a story without getting caught up in soapbox preaching or flogging an issue to death. With great characters and strong narrative direction, these novels read with ease and keep the reader engaged until the final chapters.

Kelleher has always presented strong direction with her work, aided by clear narrative focus and quick delivery. Short chapters push the story along, teasing the reader to enjoy even a little more as things progress. A handful of strong and unique characters differentiate Kelleher’s other series from this one, but there are moments of connection that keep the reader referring back to other books published by the author. Plot twits throughout and a non-linear direction to get to the solution provide entertainment and action for the reader who seeks something unpredictable. I am eager to see that there is more to come with this series, as it caught my attention and has me wanting to discover Avery Byrne‘s interesting backstory.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for a great launching point for a new series. There is lots to learn and you have my attention when you choose to educate.