Top positive review
Solve the mystery by bending the rules
Reviewed in the United States on January 29, 2020
In the second of Ellen Kirschman's exceptional crime series, police psychologist Dot Meyerhoff solves a shocking murder, but only by bending the rules even further than she usually does. Dot's client is rookie cop Randy Spelling, a young woman who grew up in a law enforcement family and is married to a deputy sheriff; she seems an ideal addition to the Police Department of Kenilworth, a Silicon Valley town whose city council is pressuring the department to add more women to its all-male force. Randy is still on probation when she makes a series of mistakes that turn a traffic stop deadly. The defiant driver, Lakeisha Gibbs, is an African American teenager whom Randy repeatedly orders to stop digging around the debris in her car and show her hands. Lakeisha ignores her and comes out of the car pointing a metal object. Randy panics and shoots. The object is a cell phone. Despite the likelihood that her defensive reaction will be found justified, Randy, distraught, acts against the emphatic advice of everyone, especially police psychologist Meyerhoff, and insists on visiting Lakeisha's mother to apologize. (A spoiler follows, but no apologies: research shows that "spoilers" may actually increase a reader's enjoyment.) Making her way to the Gibbs house by night, Randy herself is murdered. Crime fiction fans know that revealing the most innocent-seeming character as the villain was already wearing thin in Agatha Christie's day; these days it's almost impossible to keep the perpetrator secret until the climax. Author Kirschman takes the more interesting approach: let the reader guess. Right or wrong, the suspense comes from wondering whether the cops will figure it out in time, and beyond that, whether they can seal the case. The brilliant ending of "The Right Wrong Thing" does a good deal more, following one surprise with another and another.