Woman In Scarlet

The groundbreaking true story of life as a woman in an elite, male-only police force

Non-Fiction - Memoir
267 Pages
Reviewed on 09/08/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

If it hadn’t been for the fact that I have a daughter currently studying law and security and considering a career in the police force or similar, I might not have selected Woman in Scarlet by Karen L. Adams. What a shame it would have been to miss out on this thoroughly informative and enjoyable read! Karen Adams was one of the first 32 women who qualified for and became a successful member of Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police back in the 70’s. It was a role she eagerly embraced. Unfortunately, as awesome as it was that the RCMP decided it needed females on the force, in many respects they were far from prepared for how different it would be for women to serve. For instance, and just one example, men don’t get pregnant and need maternity leave!

Not that that was one of Karen’s concerns as a shy 23-year-old. All she knew was she was determined to succeed and would do what she had to and put up with things she shouldn’t have needed to…like being sexually abused by a fellow RCMP member…and telling no-one. Her silence took its toll on her in her later years, but before then, she rose steadily through the ranks, working highway patrol, undercover in the criminal world of drugs, and eventually becoming a University level teacher of new law enforcement recruits. Along the way, Karen married, had two daughters, and after divorce, worked non-stop to support her two young children as a single mom. It was a tough gig, and as Karen now admits, her dedication to her career cost her and her daughters dearly in their personal lives.

But does she regret being a member of the RCMP? As Karen shares her story, it’s obvious she loved what she was doing while she was doing it. This story is chockablock with vignettes from her on-duty days. In a matter of fact, conversational tone, she narrates with humour. She shares the good, the bad, and the ugly. But as she states several times, policing is about dealing with “the mad, the sad and the dead” and there’s plenty of that in Woman in Scarlet. Karen L. Adams is understandably proud of her achievements in the RCMP. She paved the way for other women who would join the ranks in the future. But she also has the courage to admit where she screwed up and what she should have done better. Karen’s honesty about herself will be most appreciated by readers. Other women considering a career in the RCMP, OPP, the military or regular police force would do well to pick up a copy of Woman in Scarlet before they submit their applications. Thanks for writing an important book, Karen Adams!