Thursday, May 5, 2011


Our speaker at last week's Mystery Writers of America was a San Francisco homicide detective, Holly Pera. She's a veteran police officer who has been in homicide for thirteen years. She and her partner are working cold cases now. Just today, a man was convicted of a murder he committed in 1984. DNA from blood samples preserved for nearly thirty years matched DNA of a parolee and Inspector Pera and her partner built a case against the man and solved the crime. The victim's sister had been waiting all this time for that.

Inspector Pera said most cop shows get it wrong, but mystery authors tend to get things right. I wonder. Procedure and protocol are important. But in listening to her, I realize a lot of authors have given homicide detectives short shrift.

They're often portrayed as overworked, stressed out people who can barely cope, beleaguered by their commanding officers. On Saturday I met a woman who loved her job and respected her fellow officers. She spoke uncomplainingly about working for 24 hours straight when a person is killed. She had deep compassion for the victims, tearing up a she told us about a child who has never been found, most likely killed alongside his pregnant mother by her married boyfriend.

I was struck too by her compassion for the murderers. Many murders are committed it seems in a fit of rage or stupidity, by someone who had no intention of ending someone's life. Inspector Pera was able to feel sorry for those whose lives had gone terribly wrong.

It's wonderful to meet such a dedicated public servant. She works very hard to see that justice is done and I thank her for it.


Linda O. Johnston said...

What a great way to give substance to a cop character, Terri--using a real one like Holly Pera as a model.

Terri Thayer said...

And she does it all in heels!

Monica Ferris said...

Thank you for that report, Terri. I agree with Linda: it would be good to use Holly Pera as a model to fill out a fictional character. I think sometimes we are too quick to use the downside of an occupation to add "realism" to a story.