Blood Sisters (Shea Stevens #3), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Always pleased to get my hands on a book by Dharma Kelleher, I was happy to read the latest in the Shea Stevens series. Kelleher develops more grit and blood in this ‘biker thriller’, which has the reader speeding alongside as the narrative gains momentum. Kelleher pulls on a great deal of own experiences to entertain the reader effectively until the stunning conclusion. I am quite pleased to return to this series to see how Shea Stevens can pack a punch.

While running her motorcycle shop during the day, Shea Stevens is also an active member of the Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club. When a troubled woman approaches Shea and seeks the assistance of the Club, things take on a whole new angle. A dirty politician with a deep secret will stop at nothing to keep his transgressions from being known. This worries Shea more than anything. A visit to the state senator backfires and things turn deadly, all while Shea is seeking a truce.

All the while, a group from a rival gang area back for some retribution after they have been released from jail. It is sure to be a bloody affair, one that Shea cannot sanction with everything else going on. As the Sisterhood are trying to fend people off on two fronts, Shea has a personal issue that boils over and requires her attention as well. It’s sure to be a bloody mess, but Shea Stevens is not one to back down, even as her life hangs in the balance. Kelleher does a great job with this newest book in the series, sure to pique the interest of the open-minded reader.

I cannot remember how I stumbled upon the works of Dharma Kelleher, but I have not looked back since devouring the first novel. Her work is gritty, realistic, and impactful, without needing to be overly gruesome. The reader gets just what they need and can follow along with ease, as the narrative flows without issue. Great characters and issues that brings to the forefront topics that are only now seeing the light of day, Kelleher educates her readers as much as entertain them.

I always look for a strong opening to keep me enthralled with a book, something that proves to be central to this novel. Kelleher offers a strong narrative and provides the reader with something they can digest with ease. Key characters return for another round of fighting and self-reflection, which provides the reader with something entertaining as they get into some troubling issues. Plot twists emerge throughout, adding depth to the story and those characters in the middle of it all, which makes it all the more impactful try the closing pages. I may not know much about bikers or how they run their everyday lives, but Dharma Kelleher is surely a great teacher and I am ready to learn even more.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for a great piece that I could not put down!

Blood Sisters (DS Katie Macguire #5), by Graham Masterton

Eight stars

The gem that is the DS Katie Macguire series has become my latest obsession. Graham Masterton pulls the reader in from the opening pages of each book and presents a horrible crime and then spends the bulk of the story trying to have his protagonist piece it all together. In this novel, DS Macguire not only has a handful of cases to resolve, but also some major developments in her personal life, all of which are sure to come crashing down before her if she cannot bring order to the situation. Strong storytelling matched with wonderful plot twists keep Masterton at the top of his game and provides the reader with a stellar piece of writing.

Detective Sergeant Katie Macguire is still trying to come to terms with having brought her Chief Superintendent down in a flurry of illegal activities, which resonates throughout the Cork community. Paired with a personal revelation that her life is about to change forever, DS Macguire has little time for anything else. Alas, there are some new crimes in the area that beg her attention.

The bodies of many horses are discovered by locals, apparently dumped off a cliff and into the water. Sure that this is more than a freak accident, DS Macguire summons her team to begin looking into it, thinking that this could be a massive case of animal cruelty. Meanwhile, an elderly nun in a nursing home is found dead, which is soon labelled as a murder when she was violated with a small statue. DS Macguire cannot believe who would want to target an elderly nun, but is sure that she’ll use all the resources at her disposal.

When more nuns are found murdered, all from the same convent, DS Macguire begins to see that there might be a pattern here. The convent was once the home for unwed mothers and their babies, which may be a clue to connect the murders. When tiny bones are discovered in the gardens of the convent, DS Macguire begins to see that this could be the work of a former resident, perhaps seeking retribution for something done to her.

All the while, a teenager turns up drowned in a body of water, with ties to a pimp who has been working in Cork for years. DS Macguire has been trying to nail him for prostitution and other crimes for months and this could be her best shot, if she can find the evidence she needs. But all that is shelved when an old flame returns to Cork and hopes to reconnect with her, while DS Macguire holds onto a secret that could change her life forever. Will she tell anyone or harbour this for as long as possible? Masterton does a brilliant job once again with this Irish police procedural.

Many readers likely gather recommendations and sit on them, choosing to allow their “To Be Read” pile to grow high or gather dust. I read some of Graham Masterton’s other work and promised myself that I would get to this Katie Macguire series something soon. I am now kicking myself for waiting so long, as I have not been able to stop reading them. They are so full of action, development, and the type of police work I find highly engaging. Added to that, the gruesomeness of the crimes makes me want to know more and see how Masterton could dream up such happenings. I have only met a few other authors who can write so graphically and yet keep their books strong on the investigative end. Masterton adds great character development, particular to DS Macguire, allowing the reader to feel a connection to the protagonist with each passing chapter. This is a series well worth adding to the pile, but block off some time, as it is addictive.

Masterton provides a stellar storytelling ability and supports it with a clear narrative, as he has throughout the series to date. Things flow with ease, though the reader will likely need breaks to gather themselves, as Masterton does little to filter what goes on in the criminal underworld of Cork and environs. There remains strong character development, building from past novels into the present, particularly with some of the drama DS Katie Macguire has to face, both at home and work. Masterton’s ability to weave plot twists with his climactic revelations makes for an even more exciting piece of writing, which has become a staple of this series. The ‘Irishness’ of the stories transport the reader to the Emerald Isle and make them feel a part of the auction as linguistic twists pepper the dialogue. There is also an underlying theme here, this time the abuse nuns inflicted in their homes for unwed mothers, which adds depth to the overall reading experience. This series is a must read, but should be started with the opening novel, as there are threads best followed from their origin. With a short story next in the series chronology, I am not sure if it will build on the ending here, or branch off into something completely different.

Kudos, Mr. Masterton, as you keep me wondering and wanting more. What a way to spend my summer reading!