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. 

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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.