"When I was sixteen, my sixteen-year-old cousin, Karen, had her face blown off at point-blank range by a sawed-off shotgun in a robbery gone awry at a local Burger King in the Bronx. It was early Saturday morning, April 4, 1981." Decades later, Elle Johnson still carries the wounds of her cousin's murder. Not until 2014, when her cousin Warren, Karen's older brother, asks Johnson to write a letter to the parole board encouraging them not to let the gunman free, does she truly begin to process the impact of her loss and upbringing. The result, The Officer's Daughter, is a memoir awash in doubt, anger and loss of innocence, told in the honed voice of a professional television writer and showrunner.
Karen's father was a homicide detective, Johnson's father a parole officer. Not only was Johnson's life filled with lessons learned in law enforcement (which would later influence her writing on such shows as Law & Order and Bosch), but on the night Karen was killed, the author overheard her father, uncle and numerous officers discussing tracking down and killing Karen's murderers. In a tale that begins as a tribute to Karen, Johnson traces her soul-searching, reflecting on the violence and control that pervaded her immediate family.
Johnson writes exquisitely about the conflicting yearnings of punishment and forgiveness as she considers each of the men convicted for Karen's murder. Yet the contemplation of her complex father is the beating heart at the center of this soulful and aptly titled remembrance. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review