Title: A Kind of Justice
Author: Renee James
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Length: 320 Pages
At a Glance: Initially, this was a story about a transwoman hairdresser who fights crime, but it became something more.
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: 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.
Review: When I started this book, I thought it was about a transwoman hairdresser who solved crimes. I was wrong, but my mistake was understandable. Bobbi starts off as the point-of-view character. When I was in her head, the pacing was too slow, the present tense wasn’t working for me, and I didn’t feel close to her or any of her friends. I kept dropping the book mid-scene.
Beyond basic structure, there were also some moments from her perspective that grated on me. Betsy calls Bobbi her “ex-husband”, even though Bobbi is a woman. Betsy is, in general, pretty awful and ungrateful, but Bobbi keeps insisting to herself that she doesn’t deserve anything better than their friendship. There’s also a guy—of course, he’s gorgeous—that Bobbi’s interested in. He flat out tells her he’s worried he only likes her because he has a fetish for her because she’s a transwoman. Forbidden fruit. And she still wants to see him because she thinks he’s great and she can’t do better.
Admittedly, some of the dissonance I felt could be due to the fact that this is the second book in a series and I haven’t read the first; I didn’t have those previous opportunities to bond with Bobbi. Also, I’m not interested in fashion or the industry, and that was basically the setting of the world. Certainly not the gritty murder mystery I was hoping for.
When the book really clicked for me was when another point-of-view character was introduced. A tough-as-nails detective is trying to convict Bobbi Logan of first degree murder, and the emotional growth he experiences from inhabiting her world creates a poignant and beautiful truth.
In all honesty, I’m not certain if James intended for the detective to be the protagonist of her story. She mentions in her rating that she felt the character—Bobbi—was interesting, which to me signals that she feels Bobbi is the protagonist, but I can’t let go of my interpretation that easily.
The detective’s character undergoes the most transformation. Bobbi starts out in good circumstances, the detective brings her down, and she struggles to climb back up. But by the end of the book, she’s still her best self. Her character growth doesn’t compare to the detective’s, who starts out as a complete asshole and changes into… maybe not a butterfly, but I saw something beautiful in him.
I hate to say Bobbi’s story is better told through the eyes of a straight cis man, but there was some real brilliance in the detective’s character. Bobbi was too much of a Mary Sue—she did no wrong but everyone still hated her. Her ex treated her poorly when she offered nothing but love. Her dates treated her disrespectfully, and she stuck with them because she felt it was the best she could do. People accused her of being a slut when she wasn’t. People accused her of being a bitch when she went out of her way to be kind. People accused her of being shrewd, but she only took over her business because an older gay man needed to retire due to health reasons. People accused her of murder….
The detective was a minority, however, and I think that aided how he came to an eventual understanding and respect for Bobbi. Despite the circumstances, by the end of the novel I felt as if that respect was mutual. Bobbi may be an honest woman, but the detective is also an honest cop. And justice must be served. Unfortunately, according to the law, there’s only one kind.
You can buy A Kind of Justice here: