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The Right Wrong Thing


The Right Wrong Thing

Following Ellen Kirschman’s debut novel, BURYING BEN, Dr. Dot Meyerhoff returns in a rocket-ride mystery as a police department-consulting psychologist in the tony San Francisco suburb of Kenilworth. High-strung rookie cop Randy Spelling has emotional issues, but Dr. Dot is pressured to approve the young woman for police duty, to keep the PD “diversified.”

As a rookie, Randy is partnered with seasoned officer Tom Rutgers. In the dark, the pair is attacked and elfin Randy panics. Tom is grievously injured and Randy disappears, never having drawn her service weapon or Taser. She is ostracized by the all-male Kenilworth PD (excluding Chief Reagon) and vows to shoot first and ask questions later.

"Ellen Kirschman is one to watch.... She...provides intimate knowledge of police procedures, sort of like 'Law & Order' on steroids."

“Later” comes soon. At night, alone, Randy is confronted by a black teen suspiciously exiting a car, reaching for… What? Randy fatally shoots Lakeisha Gibbs, later revealed to be pregnant and armed only with a cell phone. Back to the shrink’s couch, but not voluntarily. And Randy’s husband wants her treated by a young psychologist who uses unconventional methods. Randy feels “trapped in a box and the instructions to get out are written on the outside.”

Personal, political and professional issues plague Dr. Dot. “Those of us who counsel others are not above needing a little counseling ourselves.” A cop is killed, and she attempts to balance dictates of the Police Chief with officers who resent a “shrink” (“That’s why she’s so short”) invading a macho police department’s collective psyche.

Things don’t sit right with Dr. Dot. She begins a covert investigation of the murdered cop and deals with Lakeisha’s grieving family. Encountering subterfuge when trying to do the right thing, though others perceive it as wrong, she becomes “an unauthorized civilian [who] jumped into the middle of a murder case.”

When I received a book written by a psychologist, I thought it would be esoteric, dry as Death Valley. Not so. Ellen Kirschman is one to watch. She is a psychologist who served as a police consultant and provides intimate knowledge of police procedures, sort of like “Law & Order” on steroids. She is the author of award-winning nonfiction books that involve first responders. Her second novel deftly examines complex feminist, political and racial issues, though the denouement somewhat sputters.

I found enlightening --- though disturbing --- just how difficult is the life of a law enforcement officer, especially one forced to kill. “In this business, you don’t remember the people you’ve saved. You remember the ones you killed.”

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on October 9, 2015

The Right Wrong Thing
by Ellen Kirschman

  • Publication Date: October 6, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1608091546
  • ISBN-13: 9781608091546