Thriller Book Review: Chaser by Dharma Kelleher

Thriller Book Review

Author: Dharma Kelleher
Publication Date: December 29th 2017
Publisher: Pariah Press
Genres: Crime Thriller
ShelvesFemale-authored, Female-fronted, Transgender 

Chaser is a gritty, high-energy crime thriller with a flawed, likable protagonist. It’s a fast-paced read that kept me turning pages, finishing it in two sittings, and wishing I’d bought the next two Jinx Ballou books so I could keep on reading.

I was only hoping for a fun read, a straightforward thriller, but this was deeper and darker than I expected. Jinx fits right in with more familiar characters in the genre, particularly those vulnerable, snake-bitten protagonists who suffer bad luck and get beaten up. A lot. Seriously, Jinx gets punched, tased, kicked around, and shot, leaving her in pretty rough shape at one point, with bandages and a concussion. The central mystery of Holly Schwartz, the disabled girl accused of murdering her mother, is interesting in the way it throws up twists and turns and leads us from doubt to sympathy, through shock and amazement, but it was the subplot of Volkov, the Chechen mobster, that ratcheted up the stalker tension, the creep factor, and the body count.

The transgender element here was both more significant and less sensationalized than I expected. This is not a book about transitioning, but Jinx being transgender is integral to the story. Her identity defines her, a very public outing challenges her, and the cruel transphobia of colleagues makes an already impossible case even more difficult to navigate. She’s never a victim, though, and the lower people try to drag her the higher she climbs. Oh, and in addition to being a kick-ass bounty hunter, martial arts expert, ex-cop, and feminist icon, she’s a transgender beauty who cosplays as Wonder Woman in her spare time. Seriously, she’s amazing.

Well-written, with a solid supporting cast that includes colleagues, close family, and an extended family within the LGBT community, Chaser is an action-packed thriller that would lend itself extremely well to a cinematic take. It genuinely kept me guessing as to how it would all play out, and the dark surprises of the climax were bigger and better than I expected. It’s one of those books where you think it’s over, despite the page count remaining, only to find subplots converging in sickening ways. Next up, Extreme Prejudice ups the ante by pitting Jinx against White Nation terrorists, while A Broken Woman takes a more social turn, forcing Jinx to choose between upholding the law and pursuing justice for a fellow transgender woman.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2