Thriller Book Review: Extreme Prejudice by Dharma Kelleher

Thriller Book Review

Extreme Prejudice
Author: Dharma Kelleher
Publication Date: December 7th 2018
Publisher: Pariah Press
Genres: Crime Thriller
ShelvesFemale-authored, Female-fronted, Transgender 

Chaser, the first Jinx Ballou book, was a gritty, high-energy crime thriller that I devoured in two sittings. Dharma Kelleher did a superb job of establishing her flawed but likable protagonist, and the story itself was as packed with action as it was surprises. Already a fan, I went into Extreme Prejudice with such high expectations . . . and it was even better than I could have hoped.

The opening scene is utterly fantastic, with Jinx violently dragging a bail jumper through a crowded hotel while dressed in full Wonder Woman garb. Having been outed in the media as transgender a year before, she's not thrilled about the press coverage, but she owns the moment. There's some dark, self-deprecating humor there, followed by a differently amusing episode featuring Conspiracy Bob, a tinfoil nut with stories of mole people, but after that, the story goes dark - dark and violent, with a body count and consequences.

The trash that calls themselves White Nation are despicable people, the worst kind of hate-filled bigots with the dreams - and the means - to bring a city to its knees. There's no doubt they are monsters worthy of our loathing, but they're neither cartoonish nor exaggerated - unfortunately. The fact that they're sadly recognizable from the kinds of people we see wallowing in Trump Nation politics just accentuates the horror. To Kelleher's credit, she doesn't hold back on the potential for violence here, offering up not one, not two, but three devastating moments that had me reeling. One in particular hits so close to home, putting a favorite character in mortal danger, that I had to put the book down and walk away for a few hours.

The transgender element is a little more sensationalized than in the first book, but it's also more significant, not to more central to the plot. Jinx surrounds herself with transgender mentors, friends, and colleagues, some of whom embody the most vibrant of LGBTQ culture, but Kelleher contrasts that with a violent criminal whose bullying tactics nearly killed Jinx during her youth. Coming face-to-face with him is a huge moment, and if you're not seething at the people who protect him, then I really have to wonder why you've bothered to read that far.

While I found Extreme Prejudice to be a little more predictable than Chaser, that's not to say it doesn't have its share of surprises. The body count shocked me, but the fact that anybody in Jinx's orbit can land on the wrong side of the violence ups the tension in a way most series dare not risk. Perhaps it's because nobody is safe that I had such genuine concerns for Jinx's shaky romance with Conor, and why I worried so much for what I feared was going to be a life-changing mistake. The climax here is suitably dark, in line with the threats presented, satisfying yet realistic, without the Deus ex machina clichés that plague the genre. Highly, highly, highly recommended!

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀