Two New Books – One Fact, One Fiction – Explore The Modern PI

By Simon Crittle

Today’s world is complicated: companies are becoming more powerful than nations, the lines between public and corporate institutions grow murkier, and the internet is shredding our privacy. To combat these onslaughts, people everywhere — rich and not so rich, in business and in their personal lives — are turning away from traditional police, lawyers, and government regulators toward a new champion: the private investigator.

So says renowned PI, Tyler Maroney, in a new book “The Modern Detective: How Corporate Intelligence is Shaping the World.” Maroney, cofounder of the private investigation firm Quest Research & Investigations, who has worked at Kroll Associates and Mintz Group, says in his book PIs are more than ever being called upon to catch corrupt politicians, track down international embezzlers, and mine reams of data to reveal which CEOs are lying.

“The tools (I) and other private investigators use are a mix of the traditional and the cutting edge, from old phone records to computer forensics to solid street-level investigative work,” says Moroney whose investigations have been featured in documentaries on HBO and Amazon Prime Video and have been profiled in Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Fast Company. “The most useful assets private investigators have . . . are their resourcefulness and their creativity.”

Each of the investigations Maroney explores in the book highlights an individual case and the people involved, and in each episode he explains how the transgressors were caught and what lessons can be learned. Whether the clients is a Middle Eastern billionaire whose employees stole millions from him or the director of a private equity firm wanting a background check on a potential hire who happens to be felon, in each case PIs were hired PIs to solve problems the authorities wouldn’t touch..

In a complete change of pace, another new PI book worth a read is a novel by one-time investigator Elizabeth Breck called “Anonymous: A Madison Kelly Mystery.” The book was inspired by Breck’s personal experience of following the story of the Golden State Killer, which she tweeted regularly about, wondering aloud who the perpetrator might be. Then one night, lying in bed, the thought flashed through her head that the killer might not appreciate her musings.

“I jumped out of bed and deleted all my tweets,” said Breck. Her mind still racing, she wondered what would happen if a killer tracked down an investigator who was closing in. Fortunately for Breck, the real-life killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, was caught in 2018 and plead guilty to 13 murders. In the meantime, she had the inspiration for her first book.

The novel, centering on fictional PI Madison Kelly, was released this month. In the first few pages, Kelly comes home to find an unsigned note that reads, “Stop investigating me or I will hunt you down and kill you.” Problem is, Kelly is not investigating anyone. “In order to find out who sent the note, she has to do what the note tells her not to do,” Breck said.

The book gets its authenticity from Breck’s experience as a PI. “I put in the book actual things that have happened in the line of my work. Every time I had Madison do something, it’s what I would have done. She gets information by pretending to be someone else, which I do all the time. I’ve read about 10,000 mysteries, and it always frustrates me when the PI does something they would never actually do.” She also wanted the book to reflect her experiences as a female PI. “I’ve been told my whole career, ‘You don’t look like a PI,’ and I always reply, ‘Isn’t that the point?’

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