Author Ellen Kirschman was first introduced to me for her non-fiction writing. She is well known to folks working public safety for her book I Love a Cop. In addition to writing about police psychology, she has branched out mystery novels.
Her latest novel is called The Fifth Reflection. It the story about Dr. Dot Meyerhoff (a police psychologist) who is helping officers with a case involving a missing little girl. Dot is not just working as a counselor for the officers investigating the case. She has a connection to the missing girl’s mother, which causes Dot to become involved in the investigative process.
Over the last year, I have found myself reading a growing number of amateur sleuth novels. While many amateur sleuth books fall into the category of “Cozy Mystery” this one is far from that. Dot might be a civilian but she works inside a police department.
This story takes place in the San Fransico Bay area. The department in the story is of a good size with resources. There is an officer who is assigned to the computer crime investigations as part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC). So instead of a small town whodunit, this story has implications of suspects from all over the internet.
The plot was very timely and topical. Online child predators and ICAC assignments have been hot topics around where I work. In addition, the kidnapping happens at an artist commune. The wake of 36 people being killed in the Ghost Ship commune fire last year, the safety of these environments has been called into question.
Given that the author is a police psychologist the book had some genuine insights into the toll a case like this takes on investigators. There is a sub plot about one officer with a young family and working the case creates a divide between him and his wife. This situation adds pressure to Dot who needs to save this marriage and also help solve the case.
The pace of the book was good. This is not a case that is solved over night, it takes weeks. So there are some points a chapter ends and the next chapter is set days later. This also keeps the story grounded in reality, test from the crime lab are not back in seconds some tests take a few days or weeks.
Overall I found the story enjoyable. The scenario of the girl being kidnaped and ultimately killed is plausible. Also, the final push to get a confession from the suspect was imaginative and fun to read.
Pick of your copy of The Fifth Reflection here.
A free review copy of this book was provided via NetGalley for this unbiased Review.