"The sad legacy of suicide...survivors are left with many unanswered questions." And 48 year-old Dot Meyerhoff, the newly employed psychologist of the Kenilworth (California) Police Department, is faced with more unanswered questions than most.
Burying Ben opens with the suicide of Ben Gomez, a sensitive young rookie cop who had a serious personality clash with his Field Training Officer (FTO), jaded Eddie Rimbauer, who chronically needled Ben, referring to him as "Mr. Safeway," as in the food store. "He used to work produce. Knows how to handle a cantaloupe, but he's over his head as a cop," Rimbauer once told Dot when she counseled Ben, working hard to earn the rookie's trust while gauging his ability to perform amid the pressures of law enforcement.
After Ben kills himself, his emailed suicide note blames Dot for his tragic fate. He believed Dot breached their patient-therapist confidentiality and made matters worse for him with his bullying, demeaning FTO. As a result of the therapy sessions and Dot's advice, Ben even believed his marriage began to suffer.
Ben's accusations about Dot, a divorcee still hung up on her ex, shatters her self-worth and confidence. Is she truly responsible for this young man's death?
When charges are later brought against Dot by Ben's widow and Dot is put on administrative leave without pay, investigated by the California Board of Psychology, she becomes determined to learn more about Ben and other factors that could've led to his death.
Everyone on the police force comes into question, in particular FTO Rimbauer and the police chief, as well as Ben's family, friends and peers. Even Dot's ex, a psychologist who steps in for Dot at the police department, becomes suspect.
As Dot slowly puts the pieces of Ben's life together, danger abounds as it becomes clear that Ben lived with many secrets and faced a slew of life complications including a dysfunctional family, a baby on the way and a shotgun wedding to a sociopath wife with displeased parents, most especially her high-powered, District Attorney father.
Author Ellen Kirschman, an award-winning public safety psychologist in real life, conveys an authoritative grasp on cops—their language, mentalities and lifestyles. The dramatic, suspenseful narrative of Burying Ben is authentic and compelling, as are the chilling realities of life for a smart, middle-aged, career-driven protagonist forced to reinvent her life amid a string of unfortunate events.
Burying Ben: A Dot Meyerhoff Mystery by Ellen Kirschman
Aakenbaaken & Kent, $15.95, Paper, 9781938436116 , 244 pp
Publication Date: September 4, 2013