Unabridged Chick

I'm Audra, a 30-something married lesbian. I love interesting heroines, gorgeous prose, place as character, and the occasional werewolf.
Coming Out Can Be Murder - Renee James This is another book my wife tore out of my hands because I gushed too much, too soon. We both adored Achy Obejas' short story "Destiny Returns" from Chicago Noir and this book reminded me greatly of Obejas' story: the wonderful use of place and the bright light shone on the experience of those on the margins of society. James' novel is about a transgendered hairdresser, whose personal life is already emotionally tumultuous -- she's working on coming 'out' wholly as a woman without, hopefully, losing her job -- when she learns that a friend, another transgender woman, is brutally murdered.Concerned that police aren't moving on solving the murder, Bobbi tracks the man believed to be the murdered, and unsurprisingly, this leads Bobbi into some serious danger. The story flips between Bobbi's first person account and the murderer's life, and it's chilling (delightfully, deliciously, angry-making-ly). This is a political thriller in some ways, unintentionally, but by virtue of the fact that the murder of a transgendered woman is often under-reported in media and poorly investigated. I loved that nuance to this story -- the violent death of anyone is horrible but James really lifts up the fears and anger from a community that often has to watch silently as society ignores the violence they face.I loved the characters and James' writing, and Bobbi passed my I-want-her-to-be-my-bestie test. She's smart and funny, nervous and bold, scared and surprisingly strong, and very real. She's also a sexual person with desires and lusts, and James doesn't hide that. There's some sex (PG-13ish, I'd say), and some romance, and I loved it all -- and I was really delighted that James doesn't hide Bobbi in anyway. The secondary characters were just as appealing as the main characters, and again, I was so taken with the mix of crime and social/political commentary.This is a fantastic murder mystery -- don't be scared off by the focus on the transgender community. Even if you're unfamiliar with what 'transgender' means isn't a problem as James provides context and explanation. As Bobbi goes through the process of coming out as a transwoman and what that means, James brings the reader along the whole time, and I dare anyone not to be moved.I am so eager to see James' next endeavor, and I kind of hope Bobbi shows up again. She's a heroine I'm rooting for, and James' Chicago is a place I want to visit again. Give this book a try, especially this summer: this is a fun, quick-but-meaty murder mystery that is engrossing from the first page to the last.