BOOK REVIEW: The Right Wrong Thing by Ellen Kirschman

The Right Wrong ThingDr Dot Meyerhoff, police psychologist, clears the first female officer to join Kenilworth Police Department. However days later, the officer, Randy Spelling, freezes in the face of danger, risking the life of her partner, and inciting the wrath of the entire department. No sooner has she come to terms with this mistake, when she makes another: fatally shooting a pregnant, unarmed teenager in a routine stop. The consequences of Randy’s actions are far reaching, not least for Dr Meyerhoff who, despite all advice to the contrary, involves herself in the case, risking not only her career, but also her life.

A well-written story that kept me interested from start to finish, The Right Wrong Thing deals with a number of enormously important issues in modern society: sexism, racism, police brutality and post-traumatic stress disorder. But don’t let that deter you; this is still an extremely heartfelt novel. We see each issue as it affects the families and individuals around which the story is crafted. Kirschman cleverly draws you in to each character’s world, makes you feel sympathy or anger or disdain and then completely turns the world on its head so what you knew to be up, is now down, what you were sure was right, is now wrong.

Kirschman herself has more than thirty years’ experience as a psychologist for first responders and this shines through in her writing. Her knowledge of police procedures and department politics gives this novel the depth it needs to carry the drama. The dialogue is smart and moves the story along well, and the characters are interesting enough draw you back for more. Meyerhoff is particularly appealing: she has such a charming humanity about her, aware of her failings and trying hard to do right by the good people in her life. She’s an older, hugely experienced woman working in a very masculine environment. It would’ve been easy for Kirschman to write her as the hard-nosed bitch, but this gentle, yet still hugely capable woman is captivating, and I would argue, extremely relatable to millions of career-minded women in the world.

My only gripe: why is this incredibly intelligent, massively experienced professional risking her career and her life on this one case? Meyerhoff makes a lot of reckless moves that frustrated me to the point of anger. Frankly, it was unfeasible. And the ending was far too cheesy for my liking. But, suspend your disbelief for the duration, and you won’t be disappointed by Kirschman, Meyerhoff or the cops of Kenilworth PD.

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