Chaser (Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter #1), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Dharma Kelleher returns with this debut novel in her new series, one that is sure to pique the interests of those readers who enjoy something a little grittier. Jenna Christina ‘Jinx’ Ballou is a well-respect bounty hunter in Phoenix. With eight years experience and time working for Phoenix PD, she has the intuition needed to hunt down criminals of all stripes and colours. She’s quite excited to be featured in a local news magazine, sure to highlight all her accomplishments. However, the journalist spins the article to reveal a personal matter she has kept under wraps for close to two decades; that she is transgender. While this has not proven to impede her abilities to work, it would seem that many in her line of work are a little less than accepting. Having been blackballed by many, Jinx is forced to peddle her wares and is given a one-time chance to locate a significant bounty in only five days. A teenage girl has been charged with murdering her mother and, while out on bail, has disappeared from her aunt’s custody. While the aunt vows that she has no idea where she might have gone, Jinx is not too sure. Rumour has it, she’s been scooped up by some random man, though details remain sketchy. Working with her boyfriend and fellow bounty hunter, Conor, Jinx uses all her contacts to locate this young woman, which takes her to the darkest parts of the city. Risking her life and limb every day, Jinx must juggle her work and background as she faces people with little regard for respect and responsibility. Time is running out and Jinx has to secure this bounty or face dire consequences in all parts of life. Kelleher does a fantastic job opening the reader’s eyes to the world of bounty hunting and acceptance of people in all walks of life. Those who have enjoyed Kelleher’s past work will likely find this piece of great interest.

While I do not usually read the type of books that Kelleher pens (bikers and bounty hunters), I find the quality and ease of understanding to be highly addictive. Kelleher invests time and energy to ensure that the reader, no matter their walk of life, can feel comfortable reading this material and, at times, develop an affinity for the genre. Jinx Ballou is a character that is sure to prove curious to the attentive reader. She is filled with layers of personality traits that complement one another, while also bringing much backstory to keep things from getting too mundane. A bounty hunter in a male-dominated field, she has grit and determination to differentiate herself from others, without going over the top. Kelleher handles the transgender angle respectfully and offers the reader education rather than feeling as through they are being inculcated with information. There is a delicate mix and Jinx juggles all parts of her life while also keeping the story moving forward. Some of the other characters serve to accentuate differentiate varying aspects of the story’s plots, be they the world of bounty collection, sexual acceptance, or personal growth. Kelleher has shaped these secondary characters as effective vessels to speak to the perspectives she wishes to portray throughout. Turning to the story, it is gritty and does not slow down at any point, but does alternate between plot and characters development. This is important, particularly if Kelleher wants to create a series, for it is connection to both that will have the reader wanting more. Pulling no punches, Kelleher tells things as they are, injecting saucy dialogue to create a degree of realism to the character interaction. This will surely offend or upset some readers, but that would likely be the crowd who’d not return nonetheless, so there is little lost keeping them on the wayside. I have been happily surprised to see all the pieces Kelleher has presented to date and hope she has more in store for her fans, no matter the topic.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for another winner. I can see so much potential and hope you’re getting the support from readers and writers alike to keep pushing forward with this venture.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:


Boosted: A Shea Stevens Short Thriller (Shea Stevens # 0.5), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

I discovered the gritty work of Dharma Kelleher earlier this year and devoured her two novels with Shea Stevens in the protagonist’s seat. With this recently released prequel short story, Kelleher takes readers back to see just how Shea’s youth shaped her into being the woman she is today, still obsessed with motorcycles and with a keen eye for business opportunities. At the age of sixteen, Shea Stevens seeks to carve out her own niche. Her father is the former president of the Confederate Thunder Motorcycle Club, a renegade group that has dodged the law for a long time. Added to that, Shea witnessed him kill her mother in cold blood, leaving Shea in the hands of DCS. While there is much money to be made in selling dope, she wants something with a greater reward. After hearing that she could make money delivering vehicles to the local chop shop, Shea and her girlfriend try to ‘apply’ for a job. However, no one seems to want to take the bait and she’s sent walking. With her silver tongue, Shea is able to convince the owner to give her one chance and is sent to heist a vehicle in short order. Zeroing in on the car she wants, Shea tries to hot-wire it and get it back for her fee. After learning that she’s taken the vehicle of Milo Volkov, a member of the Chechen mob, Shea rushes to return the vehicle to save her girlfriend’s life. Milo has other ideas and thinks that he can overpower Shea, but she has an agenda all her own. What follows is the early stages of grit and determination that series fans have come to expect in Shea Stevens. A wonderfully quick story that gives the reader a little more insight into the life of Shea Stevens and the start to what will surely be an interesting career, with Confederate Thunder casting a long shadow. Kelleher fans will enjoy this one, perfect for that morning coffee period.

As I mentioned before, Dharma Kelleher is a fairly recent addition to my reading library, but the gamble has paid off many times over. Fans of SAMCRO will likely enjoy this series and might enjoy the early years of She Stevens’ life. The story is short enough that there is little time for character development, but the premise is clear; Shea has always put herself first and is happy to blur the line between legal and illegal, as long as she ends up safe. The full-length novels reveal much about Shea and her entire entourage, but this piece is equally entertaining and shows that Kelleher is looking to hash out her protagonist to better explore how things turned around for everyone involved. Intriguing and full of bantering dialogue that is ideal for series fans, this is not a piece to miss. Plus, Amazon had it on for a single American cent (since we lost the penny in Canada).

Kudos, Madam Kelleher for entertaining me with all you write. I hope others come to see the great novels (and short pieces) you bring to the table.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Snitch (Shea Stevens Thiller #2), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Dharma Kelleher, and Alibi for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I recently discovered Dharma Kelleher and her biker thriller genre, which is as realistic sounding as it is entertaining to read. After some major dust-ups with the law and the local outlaw motorcycle club, Confederate Thunder, Shea Stevens has been trying to remain below the radar. Her focus has turned to running the Iron Goddess, a custom motorcycle shop, while juggling being a new parent to her niece. When a few people turn up dead after a night of partying, a new party drug cut with strychnine appears to be the culprit. Whispers point to a new female motorcycle club, the Athena Sisterhood, as being responsible for its distribution. Shea is forced into infiltrating the club to learn more, all part of a confidential informant agreement she signed to keep her out of prison. Faced with a significant dilemma, Shea must stomach that the Sisterhood is run by her ex, Deb Raymond. Hesitant, but knowing it is her only chance not to lose it all, Shea agrees to work with the police and worms her way into the Sisterhood. With their strong anti-misogynist views, the Sisterhood clashes with the Confederate Thunder over territory and the right to exist, leading to numerous violent encounters and significant bloodshed. As the number of drug-related deaths rise, Shea pushes harder to get into the middle of the Sisterhood, which leads to a blurring of lines with Deb and places Shea’s committed relationship on the ropes. Shea is aware that the Thunder are holding onto a significant amount of product and surmises that it might have been sold to the person responsible for adding the strychnine. The club clashes turn deadly and Shea must take a stand, which places her in a precarious position, trying to protect those she loves while revealing someone by the name of Bonefish, who is at the heart of the distribution. Shea’s work as a CI takes over and she begins to lose focus of what matter. What will it take for Shea to reach the tipping point and which ‘family’ will she choose? With powerful themes and significant undertones, Kelleher offers readers a powerful second instalment of the series.
My knowledge of outlaw motorcycle gangs does not extend past SAMCRO, though I felt as though I was in the middle of a realistic clash on the rough streets of Ironwood, Arizona. Kelleher surely uses some of her personal experiences to help shape the novel and its significant plot lines, much as she did when introducing the reader to the concept in the debut novel. A vast array of characters from various walks of life helps develop the numerous plot lines and creates the needed clash and banter that fuels this clash of wills. Shea Stevens has a convoluted past, as well as a present life that borders on the insane, both of which become clearer through the narrative and the situations into which the protagonist is put. While dealing with some fairly common themes in the mystery genre (drugs, violence, murder), Kelleher is able to spin things to keep them unique and fresh, which is highly appealing to the reader. Keeping the story fast-paced and developing twists throughout, Kelleher keeps the reader guessing until the very end and leaves the series with a few loose ends that can, one would hope, find some resolution in yet another novel. I look forward to seeing more work by Kelleher in the near future, as she has a strong handle on how to keep the reader fixated on the life of motorcycle outlaws.
Kudos, Madam Kelleher for a wonderful follow-up novel. I will be promoting your work to anyone who wants to give this new and evolving genre a try. Know you have a significant fan in me. 

Iron Goddess: A Shea Stevens Thriller, by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Having newly discovered Dharma Kelleher and her genre of biker thriller (??), I was eager to see if her past life experiences could fluidly translate into an effective novel this being her debut. Shea Stevens has been running the Iron Goddess, a custom motorcycle shop, for the past number of years. In doing what she loves, Shea has been able to put her criminal past in the proverbial rearview mirror. When she arrives to discover she’s been robbed of a major custom order and one of her employees has been shot, she cannot help but see red. Curious as to who might be responsible, Shea contemplates the Confederate Thunder, a local biker gang with whom she has a sordid past; her reprobate father having been their president in her youth. With few clues, Shea makes the gamble and reached out to her estranged sister, Wendy, who is married to the current president of the Thunder, a man with little to no respect for anyone, including his family. While trying to learn if Confederate Thunder might be responsible, Shea learns that her niece has been kidnapped, potentially by a rival Mexican gang. Forced to work with her brother-in-law, Shea has flashbacks of her own youth and vows to help Wendy get out of the life before she ends up dead. When the kidnappers reach out, Shea does all she can help, which puts her in many precarious positions of her own. Further clues might tie the kidnappers to the break-in at the Iron Goddess, but there is another more sinister revelation that rocks the Arizona community, a stone’s throw from the heart of Phoenix. Kelleher tells a powerful story with ease and pulls the reader in so effortlessly. A must read for those looking to branch out in their thriller genre reading. 

I admit I know little about motorcycles or their affiliated gangs, outside of my obsession with SAMCRO for seven seasons. However, when I learned of Kelleher and her writing, I thought I would see if it parallels what I knew about the ‘life’. Everything fits nicely and I felt in the middle of a local charter that has enemies all around it and the police sniffing around. Kelleher not only builds up a number of decent bikers as characters, but is able to offset the life that Shea is seeking to shed with a bright future before her. Layering numerous plot lines together, as Kelleher has done, can be risky, as the reader must be invested in them all for it to work out well. The novel balances everything and offers just enough of each plot to keep the story moving forward and the reader from getting lost in the shuffle. There is much to be said of this, alongside the quick chapters that tease just enough information out so as to push the reader a little further. I am eager to rev things up and get into the second Shea Stevens thriller, just as soon as I can cool my engines and get this review posted.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher for a wonderful debut in the realm of novel writing. If this is anything like some of the other ideas you have, you will gather a following quickly and without issue.