Bobbi’s friend Mandy is murdered at the outset, in the first of a number of lurid vignettes written from the point of view of the killer—a high-powered Chicago attorney who also happens to be a depraved sexual predator. The violence is cheesy, but it would feel even more gratuitous if it weren’t of a piece with the frank style James applies to everything. Some of Coming Out’s more illuminating passages relate the intense emotional, social, and physical challenges of gender transition in minute, compassionate detail.
James’s compassion isn’t universal, though. She’s occasionally given to infelicitous, if not quite offensive, generalizations (“I’m being eyeballed by an ethnic I associate with violence”). And, in the character of the killer, she seems to equate kinky sexual practices like BDSM with violent pathology. The book is most incisive and successful as a chronicle of personal change.