Thriller Book Review: A Broken Woman by Dharma Kelleher

Thriller Book Review

A Broken Woman
Author: Dharma Kelleher
Publication Date: December 10th 2019
Publisher: Dark Pariah Press
Genres: Crime Thriller
ShelvesFemale-authored, Female-fronted, Transgender 

A Broken Woman, the aptly titled third Jinx Ballou book, follows on the darkness and pain of Extreme Prejudice's climax to explore a protagonist who is very much broken by her experiences. The story opens in a seedy motel where an already drunk Jinx gets high with the bail jumper before her impaired state causes her to fumble the takedown, allowing him to flee - and fall to his death.

As much as I missed the humor of the first two books, I give full credit to Dharma Kelleher for not just brushing off the events of the last book. It's refreshing to see an author acknowledge the consequences of her story, even if it does make for a more difficult read. Having walked away from her love, distanced herself from her friends, and gotten herself fired as a bounty hunter, Jinx is forced to take on an assignment she doesn't want - one that sees her cross paths with Shea Stevens, heroine of Kelleher's hard-edged biker thriller series.

It's through Shea that Jinx stumbles onto a path towards redemption and self-healing, and their enemies-to-lovers arc echoes that transformation. Having found someone just as tough, just as stubborn, and just as loyal as she is, Jinx is forced to consider what motivates her, even as she faces questions of ethics, finding herself in the awkward position of being the one to reign in another's darker passions for a change. The dynamic between Jinx and Shea is fantastic, and I thought they worked very well together, sharing their crossover story in a way that felt entirely natural.

The transgender element is front-and-center this time around, with Jinx assigned to bring in a transgender woman who skipped bail after being subjected to cruelty and assault in a men's prison. Jinx wants to treat it as nothing more than just another job, but Shea forces her to consider the other woman as a human being in need of protection from an unjust legal system. It's not a comfortable partnership, and Jinx resents being forced to play private investigator, but she rediscovers something of her humanity through empathizing with Zia Pearson.

As for the story behind Zia's wrongful arrest, it's a simpler tale than the last book, but it's no less powerful for turning from large-scale terrorism to individual hate crimes. Here we have a fire-and-brimstone preacher, spewing hatred against women and the LGBTQIA community, with a trail of ruined lives behind him. There is any number of people who might have wanted him dead (including Zia), and a surprising connection to a sex trafficking ring means few are willing to talk about it. 

Aside from one plot hole that irked me throughout the second half of the book, I thought A Broken Woman was a fantastic continuation of the series, one that shows real character development. It doesn't have the same body count as Extreme Prejudice (thankfully), but the addition of Shea and the Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club puts a different spin on the action, adding some breathtaking chase scenes to the close-quarters violence. Knowing where TERF Wars promises to take the story next, I'm even okay with the romantic cliffhanger here because we need a healed, healthy, happy Jinx to take on what's next.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2