Officer Randy Spelling had always wanted to be a police officer, to follow in the footsteps of her brothers and her father. Not long after joining the force, she mistakenly shoots and kills Lakeisha Gibbs, a pregnant teenager. The community is outraged; Lakeisha’s family is vocal and vicious in their attacks against Spelling. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and filled with remorse, Randy is desperate to apologize to the girl’s family. Everyone, including the police chief, warns her against this, but the young police officer will not be dissuaded. Her attempt is catastrophic. Dr. Dot Meyerhoff, police psychologist, plunges herself into the investigation despite orders from the police chief to back off. Not only does the psychologist’s refusal to obey orders jeopardize her career, but her life as well, as she enlists unlikely allies and unconventional undercover work to expose the tangled net of Officer Spelling’s disastrous course.
My second time with author Ellen Kirschman and her police psychologist Dot Meyerhoff, after enjoying Burying Ben back in 2014. Review here.
Dot’s back in the firing line again. Having cleared Randy Spelling as psychologically sound to take up a position with the Kenilworth Police Department; Spelling is soon involved in an incident where a male officer gets attacked and in the subsequent melee she panics and flees. Her colleagues turn on her.
Already on the defensive and somewhat isolated, trouble looms larger when Spelling kills a black, pregnant and unarmed teenager, an incident that further estranges the police department from elements of the community they serve.
Dot tries to help Randy cope with the guilt she feels, by counselling both her and her husband Rich Spelling. With a new and unpopular female police chief, a black community backlash, a troubled officer in Spelling - struggling to cope with the aftermath of the incident and cracks appearing in her marriage to Rick; the last thing Dot needs is a new tree-hugging, eye-lid fluttering, ambulance chasing competitor of a psychologist in town – Marvel Johnson. That’s what she gets.
I really enjoyed The Right Wrong Thing. It’s a fresh look at the police and the problems they face, from the perspective of an informed outsider. Meyerhoff whilst attempting to connect with Randy, struggles to help her overcome her guilt about the incident and the need she feels to apologise to the victim's family. On a more general level, we see the difficulties a police counsellor faces in trying to establish a rappor with officers and their fears that the feelings and details revealed in their sessions don’t automatically get passed up the chain of command to the hierarchy in the department.
Kirschman adds flesh to the bones of our tale, by offering an insight into Dot’s own frailties and insecurities, both from a career perspective and in her personal life. Having been betrayed by her ex-husband in our previous book, Dot is still taking baby steps with the new man in her life, Frank. The ups and downs of this relationship, as the case unfolds and then explodes adds another layer to the story.
A dramatic event at the mid-point of the book, ups the ante.
Overall verdict - enjoyable and thought provoking without being preachy. With a lot of recent high publicity police shootings, particularly white on black, it’s interesting to get the often unheard police perspective to balance the debate. Kirschman’s no police apologist, but with over 30 years as a police psychologist, she articulates the pressures and fears and split-second decision making first responders have to make when approaching dangerous, life threatening situations.
4.5 from 5.
Ellen Kirschman has her website here. She was kind enough to send me a copy of this one for review.