Description from Netgalley:
Against all odds, Bobbi Logan, a statuesque transgender woman, has become one of Chicago’s most celebrated hair stylists and the owner of one of the city’s poshest salons. She is finally comfortable with who she is, widely admired in her community, about to enjoy the success she deserves.
Then her impossibly perfect life falls apart.
In the space of a few weeks, the Great Recession drags her business to the brink of failure, her beloved ex-wife needs help in facing a terrible tragedy, and a hateful police detective storms back into her life, determined to convict her of the five-year-old murder of John Strand—pillar of the community—and a sexual predator.
As the detective builds an ever more convincing case against her, both of them will be shaken by revelations—about themselves, about their own deeply held secrets, and about the bizarre ritual murder of John Strand.
I’m having a complicated reaction to this book. To start with, I didn’t know it was a sequel until I went to Goodreads to review it, after finishing it. So, now I wonder what I missed, having not read book one. One the upside, the fact that I never felt I was missing anything until I knew there was a previous book means it stands alone just fine.
Secondly, I liked Bobbi. I loved her relationship to her ex-wife. I thought it was one of the sweetest things I’ve read in a while. It wasn’t perfect, they had some issues to work through. But work through them they did and made a family of sorts and I LOVED that. I liked that Bobbi had close platonic friends and that generational differences within communities was addressed. Not to mention that she was a tad older than the average heroine.
I disliked the detective, but appreciate the transformative journey he went through. I liked the possible love interest and that the book doesn’t end with an unrealistic perfect Happily Ever After. It might get there, but wasn’t at the end of this novel.
I liked that this book isn’t just a murder mystery with a transgendered main character. In a very real way, it’s about being a transgendered woman around whom there is a mystery. It’s why I picked the book up in fact.
Having said that (and here is my complication because I don’t want to sound like I’m saying, ‘the trans book was just too trans’), I felt bludgeoned by Bobbi’s transgenderism. Trans/transsexual/transgender/transwoman/transwomen/tranny is used 197 times in the 320 page book, not counting that the charity is called TransRising and any time it’s talked about but not named. Now, my issue isn’t with the individual words or subject that I felt bludgeoned by, but that I felt bludgeoned at all.
I don’t want to take away from the importance of Bobbi’s real world experiences. They are important. I rather just mean the writing was heavy-handed at times and the constant emphasis on one aspect of the character, even an important one that would be expected to effect every area of her life, blotted out some others that in a mystery novel needed more page-time to develop.
Other than the occasionally heavy-handed writing and the fact that I thought the book was slow at times, I mostly really enjoyed it (even having not read the first book). I’d be more than happy to read another story by James.