Shelleyrae at Book'd Out's Reviews > Coming Out Can Be Murder

Coming Out Can Be Murder by Renee  James
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Mar 29, 2012

really liked it
Read from August 22 to 23, 2012 — I own a copy

I was intrigued by a review I read online of Coming Out Can be Murder at the book blog Literary R&R which praised the novel's combination of unique transgender protagonist and page turning mystery plot. After leaving a comment, the author contacted me to ask if I would be interested in reviewing the novel and I was happy to accept, adding it to my schedule.

Coming Out Can Be Murder is set in and around Boystown, Chicago, a district recognized as a cultural center for the LGBT community. Bobbi Logan is in a period of transition, working as a male hairdresser by day, on her own time she prefers to dress and identify as a woman. Considering gender reassignment surgery, but still uncertain about her such a radical change, the first step for Bobbi involves coming out at work. It's a difficult transition and between her insecurities about her looks, hormones and more than a few nasty reactions, Bobbi can't help but question her burgeoning identity. James realistically portrays Bobbi and her emotional and mental turmoil as she begins her life as a full time transgender woman considering gender reassignment. Much of the novel focuses on the individual challenges Bobbi faces as she tries to become comfortable with who she is and I couldn't help but sympathise with the difficult journey she undertakes. James approach to Bobbi's character is a holistic one with the author careful to ensure that Bobbi is a well developed multifaceted character.

When one of Bobbi's clients, Mandy, a young transgender woman, is brutally murdered, and the local cops seem indifferent, Bobbi finds herself drawn into finding the man responsible. In her emotionally vulnerable state however she finds herself in a dangerous situation, targeted by the sociopathic man who is protected by wealth, power and status. I think Coming Out Can be Murder is more properly a psychological thriller than a mystery. The tension is generated by the author's decision to give us insight into the man's perspective. The reader witnesses his sadistic personality and fears for Bobbi's safety while Bobbi largely remains oblivious to the situation she has created. While I thought the suspense aspect of the plot was well developed, I have to admit I wasn't satisfied with its cold blooded conclusion. Though I can see what the author was aiming for, it didn't sit well with me and as a result there is a sense of imbalance overall.

Coming Out Can be Murder also explores the social challenges members of the transgender community face. The responses of family members and friends, many of whom choose to exorcise the transgender person from their lives in shock and disgust, leaving the person vulnerable with few resources. Having to endure the attitudes of strangers, ranging from the uncomfortably curious to violent anger and hatred. The apathetic political, legal and justice systems whom discriminate against the community because of individual prejudices. There are some confronting scenes in the novel, including a brutal rape and assault on Bobbi, but I found the less violent slights, snubs and reactions of Bobbi's clients similarly disturbing. I have to admit I have never met a transgender person but I like to think I would not be bothered by an encounter. My personal philosophy is along the lines of "live and let love".

While I enjoyed the thriller aspect of Coming Out Can be Murder it is the insight into a lifestyle and a community I am not familiar with that I found to be the most fascinating element of the novel. I am glad I took a chance on this small press title and I would recommend it to anyone whose curiosity is piqued by the premise.

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