Crime is no respecter of borders, time or place. So, when I started reading this month’s book and found it was set in a police department in Silicon Valley, I was a little surprised as that was the last place I assumed would have need for law enforcement. I have this rather rose-tinted view that Silicon Valley is a lush green place just outside San Francisco that is a myriad of weird space age glass office blocks, inhabited by leading dot com companies. Where everyone drives a mix of sports cars and Hybrids, wears chinos or jeans alongside retro labelled t-shirts and there are Starbucks and up market deli’s falling over themselves to serve every conceivable trendy hot and cold drink or food.
Okay, so white collar crime is a serious matter, but what also intrigued me was that the lead character’s profession was one I’d never seen investigate crime before, a police psychologist. This month’s book is The Fifth Reflection by Ellen Kirschman. Published by Oceanview publishing (www.oceanviewpub.com) in July.
Dr. Dot Meyerhoff, is enjoying thanksgiving break in the warm bosom of her partner Frank’s large Iowa family, when the daughter of Frank’s night class photography tutor goes missing. The two of them head back West, Frank to comfort his friend and tutor and Dot to see what she can do to assist the police. A couple of days later the girl’s body is found in a dumpster; the missing child investigation is ramped up to a murder. This isn’t a straight forward disappearance as the girl’s mother regularly used her as subject in very risqué pictures in which her daughter was nude. On top of that the little girl is the by-product of a one-night stand and her father and step mum are well to do socialites. Dot is caught in a bit of a bind as she is slightly compromised in that she knows the girl’s mum through Frank and works for the local PD. Also as the investigation progresses Dot starts to get concerned for the mental state of the officer leading the investigation, but despite all her protestations, her chief of police, who she just about gets on with, will have none it and shows little or scant concern for the young detective’s welfare.
This book drew me in from start and reminded me why I started reading Patricia Cornwell all those years ago, before she let success get to her head and started messing with her writing style and lost this reviewer, as an ardent fan, to Kathy Riechs. Okay, the subtle difference between the characters is merely their jobs, Scarpetta and Brennan are medical examiners and a forensic pathologist, who deal with the bodies and bones while Meyerhoff deals with the mind, more specifically the minds of the those fighting crime.
When Cornwell first started writing about Scarpetta, her books and descriptions were earthy, homegrown and got down and dirty with the heroine, while also giving acres of substance to her background. Here Kirschman does the same thing, as a result Dot comes across as homely and a very likeable character.
As for the writing and the story, it has the single biggest hook in crime fiction as well as real life. A missing child stops everything, things are never really the same after it happens. From the moment you realise the victim is a young child, you are immediately hooked and nothing is going to stop you from getting back to this book.
Kircschman explores the void left in the wake of such a heinous crime, while also focusing on the ever- complicated world of internet crimes against children as well as the stresses placed upon those officers, their families and colleagues, who must track down the evil monsters who stalk our youngsters over a vast and easily accessible world wide web. All in a way only a skilled professional like she is could do.
American author Dr. Ellen Kirschman’s website describes her as a “Shrink with ink”, she’s been a police psychologist for over thirty years and in that time, she has written both fiction and nonfiction. This is her third Dr. Dot Meyerhoff book, the other two are Burying Ben (2013) and Right The Wrong Thing (2015). She’s also written a number self-help books for those working with law enforcement or married to members of the emergency services, these include Counselling Cops, I love A Cop and I love a Firefighter. She currently lives in Redwood City California with her family.
So, if you want more from your heroines than being up to their elbows in blood and cadavers and you are looking for an original female crime fighter with their head screwed on, who can bring a new and unique insight into modern day police procedure, while also delivering a cracking story, then pick up a copy at your local book shop or download it.