Sins As Scarlet by Nicolas Obregon
Former homicide detective Kosuke Iwata is on the run from his past . . .
Five years ago, he lost his family. Now he may have found his redemption.
Living in LA and working as a private detective, he spends his days spying on unfaithful spouses and his nights with an unavailable woman.
Still he cannot forget the family he lost in Tokyo.
But that all changes when a figure from his old life appears at his door demanding his help.
Meredith Nichol, a transgender woman and his wife’s sister, has been found strangled on the lonely train tracks behind Skid Row.
Soon he discovers that the devil is at play in the City of Angels and Meredith’s death wasn’t the hate crime the police believe it to be. Iwata knows that risking his life and future is the only way to silence the demons of his past.
Reluctantly throwing himself back in to the dangerous existence he only just escaped, Iwata discovers a seedy world of corruption, exploitation and murder – and a river of sin flowing through LA’s underbelly, Mexico’s dusty borderlands and deep within his own past.
I am a huge fan of diverse novels and you don’t really get many more diverse than Sins As Scarlet. It features a variety of characters from all walks of life and differing cultures. The victim in the novel is a transgender woman and Inspector Kosuke Iwata is determined to solve the case.
The novel opens on the Mexican – USA border. A pregnant woman is fleeing, and she has sustained violent injuries. The truck is gaining on her as she recites a Spanish prayer. . .
‘Most sacred heart of Jesus, I accept from your hands whatever death may please you to send me into this night’
The United States border patrol are the figures that have given chase. With another unidentified male, making his escape. They murder the pregnant female and it is at this instance I knew, things were not as they seem at the border.
This novel was going to be very dark indeed.
Kosuke Iwata is a second-generation Japanese American citizen. He currently lives in Torrance in California. Iwata’s past is fully explored within the novel. He has known considerable emotional pain. Both in his childhood and adult life. He works as a private investigator, when he is asked to take a case by Kate Floccari (state prosecutor) with regards to her husband potentially cheating on her. Iwata relinquished his own police career in Japan and has never attempted to join the police forces in the USA.
‘He figured tomorrow would just be another day, another case’
90K people go missing in LA each year!
As the novel takes you around Los Angeles, the author does an impressive job of describing the various communities.
From the poverty of Skid Row to the wealthy untouchables.
Iwata is alone in his office when he is accosted by his mother in law, Charlotte Nichol. Iwata’s wife died previously, and Charlotte asks for his help to find the killer of her only surviving child. What makes the case so unique is that Charlotte’s son Julian had transitioned gender and was living as Meredith. Meredith was murdered two weeks ago, and the police have shown little to no interest.
‘I won’t ever forgive you for what you did to Cleo. But maybe you can still do some good in this world’
It is widely known that transgender women are at an extremely high risk of being the victim of violent crime. Although this is widely known and an issue globally. Little is done in the way of preventative measures and ensuring the safety of transgender women. In fact, 45% of hate crime victims are transgender women and sadly the statistics reflect and upward trend in the crime. The novel is timely, accurate and raises awareness of the dangers the trans community face.
Iwata attempts to gather information from LAPD cop detective Joseph Avery Silke. But has little success. The cops are simply not interested.
‘Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and 50 cents for your soul’ – Marilyn Monroe
Iwata has a contact in LAPD records and information, Earnell McCrae, who owes him a favour. He soon finds he has access to the police file and it does not look good. Meredith was living at Skid Row, she was a known prostitute and drug user. She was strangled on some train tracks and found by a homeless man. She had, what appears to be injuries of a sexual nature, but were they part of the murder? Or a sexual encounter? Did a punter discover her male genitalia and Meredith paid with her life?
Something happened to Meredith and Iwata finds his new case, also a quest for redemption. He begins his investigation by speaking to customers and staff at the various Latino exotic dancing bars. He learns of Meredith’s lover ‘Talky’ and friend Genevieve. He has little to go on and decides to research similar cases.
‘I know whoever killed Meredith is still out there. And I don’t think he’s finished’
Iwata uncovers a spate of local murders of transgender women. With five women dead and only one solved case. All except one, strangled. Is someone murdering transwomen? Do they make the perfect victim to a sexual predator?
‘There was a man with a garrotte and a taste for transgender women’
Iwata can’t get Meredith’s plight out of his head. The people he encounters at Skid row, stay with him long after he has left. The homeless, destitute, disabled, mentally ill and undocumented. They are the marginalised, vulnerable and undesired in society.
‘Meredith had moved a thousand miles to be herself. He wondered is she died for it too’
When Iwata attempts to contact the trans community he is met with a wall of silence. He hears of a trick rumoured to kill trans women, but rumour soon becomes urban legend. What he does uncover is a community of people, often rejected by their families and loved ones, forced to live on the fringes of society.
The novel is deeply layered and very intelligent. The author has done an outstanding job of describing the locations mentioned in the novel. The characters come alive on the page. You get a real sense of the struggles the trans community face and risk of violence in their daily lives. It appears to me that vulnerability and exploitation go hand in hand.
‘The devil is on every street corner in this place’
The novel has a brilliant ending and I can not wait for the next in the series. 5*