Book Review: Jane/John Doe by Blake Everstone

First, the blurb: janjohndoe

A dead body and a lifetime of hiding in the shadows.Scott has a secret, one he is desperate to keep. Coming from an abusive childhood, Scott worked to make a new life and start again, but a late night call threatens to destroy it all. The body of a transwoman is discovered, but was it suicide or murder? Join Scott as he tries to put the pieces of the puzzle together and solve the mystery. Scott is forced to face his own demons and learn to trust those closest to him.

Spoilers lie ahead. If you care about that sort of thing.

Jane/John Doe is a sweet little story about an investigator looking into a murder. Yeah, that about sums it up. There isn’t much else that goes on in this novella. It’s not bad. It just feels…lacking? In several ways.

Scott, our determined investigator, is called to the scene of a crime. The victim is a transwoman, and it’s originally ruled a suicide. Except Chase Riley–the girl you’d think would be Scott’s love interest, but isn’t–is there already investigating and has somehow come to the conclusion that it was a homicide. The two start looking into things.

Now, the overall investigation part of this is entertaining. As far as murder mysteries go, I have very few issues with this story. It’s in the protagonist’s story that my issues start to arise.

Scott’s love interest in Chloe, the medical examiner. Except, other than being entranced by her green eyes, I’m not sure why he likes her. They have so few interactions, and haven’t ever even been out on a date or anything, and yet he fantasizes about her. It’s only at the end that he actually asks her out. And she says yes. Except…I’m not sure why she likes him either. None of their interactions suggest to me that they would be more than friendly coworkers.

Then there’s Scott’s past. He routinely flashes back to when he was abused as a child, but that doesn’t seem to play any part into the story. Nothing about it plays into the story. No one from those memories show up. There isn’t any big reveal that comes from the flash backs, nor do they come at inopportune times that would add tension to the story. They are just…there. In all honesty, they feel more like filler than anything else.

There is also nothing forcing Scott to come out as a transman, though I think Everstone wants it to feel like there is. The victim is a transwoman…and that somehow makes Scott feel like he needs to tell Chase he’s a transman. I suppose because they have to visit a clinic and a therapist that specializes in trans issues, but having him come out while sitting in a truck when Chase is barely awake feels…anticlimactic.

Though I do have to give Everstone props for having a trans protagonist to begin with! Unfortunately not many books exist that have even a trans character, let alone a trans protagonist. So I definitely am glad for this. The whole book just felt like it needed tightening up.

Of all my issues with this book though, my biggest one is the way the murderer was caught. It felt very rushed, and the actual criminal wasn’t ever even mentioned until he clocks Scott over the head and ties him up. There was no mention of him anywhere at all. And then, it turned out to not be just him, but also his father…except we find out about all of this “off screen”. Chase fills Scott in on all of this after he wakes up from blacking out. It’s not shown, it’s just “oh, this guy thought since this other guy was caught it was just over”. Which, I suppose in a way was believable, but…the one time the father had been in a scene it didn’t feel like he would just “give up” and admit everything he’d done.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes murder mysteries and wants more diverse characters–especially trans characters.  If you enjoy these things, I encourage you to pre-order it today!

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