Tag Archives: private investigator

Private Investigator in 1940s Los Angeles

private investigator in 1940s Los AngelesEzekiel “Easy” Rawlins makes a likeable protagonist. As Devil in a Blue Dress begins, he’s just been fired from a job at a defense plant. In order to pay the mortgage payment on his new little house, Easy works as a private investigator in 1940s Los Angeles for a strange, white gangster.

Rawlins’ search for a white, blonde-haired female last seen wearing a unique blue dress takes the reader all over the late-1940s Los Angeles area. He finds the female but allows her to slip through his fingers. Easy benefits to some degree from money stolen by the woman from the white business owner who’s looking for her. Rawlins later learns the woman’s true identity. This factors significantly into the story told to the police and to the white man paying to have her found. Several folks end up killed, including the gangster who had acted as go-between with Rawlins and the businessman.

Over the course of the story, I came to like Easy Rawlins very much. He’s mostly honest, smart and courageous, although the same can’t be said for some of his so-called friends. By the end of the novel, Rawlins has found himself self-employed. He invested some of the “found” money and some of his investigator’s fee into another house that he rents out. And he takes on cases as a private investigator.

Devil in a Blue Dress (written in 1990) handles race relations as a noticeable subplot. Similarities exist between when the plot takes place – the late 40s – and today. “The thought of paying my mortgage reminded me of my front yard and the shade of my fruit trees in the summer heat. I felt that I was just as good as any white man, but if I didn’t even own my front door then people would look at me like just another poor beggar, with his hand outstretched.”

WANTING MORE

Reading more of Walter Mosley‘s Easy Rawlins series will be no hardship. Mosley’s prose style draws you into the story and holds your attention. I look forward to seeing what he’s been up to since this series opener. Judging by the number of books (15, including Blood Grove, published in 2021), Easy Rawlins has gotten himself into quite a bit of mystery and tight spots.

Private Investigator: New-found friend

Private InvestigatorsIn a recent post I mentioned that what I read leans more toward the exploits of the amateur detective than the private investigator. Well, I guess that’s about to change with Arlana Crane‘s Mordecai’s Ashes.

Extensive forest cover; few main roads. Small waterfront towns and villages where everyone knows just about everyone else. Tourist sites and local pubs, but not many places to disappear. Doesn’t sound like a prime spot for a heavy-weight drug ring to hide in plain sight. But that’s just what Karl Larsson finds in Crane’s debut novel. A drug bust is Larsson’s first big case after inheriting his grandfather’s investigation agency.

Divorced and a bit down on his luck, Karl grabs the chance to leave his combative, estranged family and take up residence in Victoria on Vancouver Island, Canada. Background checks and serving papers to deadbeat dads make up the bulk of Larsson’s initial cases. That is, until an investigative reporter from Vancouver comes calling about a drug cartel. Then, it’s a quick study in undercover methods for Larsson. Good thing he hires his young cousin, Kelsey, as his assistant to keep track of him. After reporting his findings to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, they recruit Larsson to continue his surveillance. What follows is quickly paced and engaging.

KUDOS ARE IN ORDER

Arlana Crane’s depiction of the main characters, Karl and Kelsey Larsson, is spot on. Supporting characters Percy Meiklejohn and Alex Dyson also resound truthfully and strong. Hopefully, we’ll see more of Meiklejohn and Dyson in future installments.

Kudos to Crane for the characterization and pacing in this debut in her Larsson Investigation series. Steady and quick pacing, with a bit of humor thrown in. I didn’t want Mordecai’s Ashes to end. Karl and Kelsey became friends. I’ve found myself two new private investigator companions.

Mordecai’s Ashes
by Arlana Crane
©2020
Big Tree Press

Private Investigators – Search for Justice

When reading mysteries, amateur detectives grab my attention—Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Miss Silver—rather than PI series like V. I. Warshawski or Kinsey Millhone. But recently I read two nonfiction books about real-life private investigators. A Suitable Job for a Woman: Inside the World of Women Private Eyes by Val McDermid and Becoming a Private Investigator by Howie Kahn aim to set the record straight. Private Investigators search for justice, truth and the end of corruption.

Private Investigators - search for justice

These books demonstrate that investigators’ lives don’t run to fast cars or blazing guns. Boring hours-long, sometimes fruitless, stakeouts. Frustration from waiting for a call that doesn’t come.  These irritants are more the order of the day.

As the title indicates, McDermid’s book focuses on female private eyes. They worked from the mid to late twentieth century, at a time when women were just entering the private investigation field. Much is made of the difference of approach between some male and female investigators. Machismo, sexism and sleaze cropped up more than once. A bit too much, possibly. Also revealed was that male PIs tended to carry a gun while the female PIs did not.  McDermid’s book was published in 1995. I wonder what, if anything has changed in the intervening 25 years.

Private Investigators - search for justiceKahn’s offering shares part of the work life of a female and male investigator. Both PIs persist over the course of several years to find answers for their clients. Each kept circling around the facts in a case when the facts offered by the authorities didn’t seem to fit. In addition, both worked diligently to change the attitude of the authorities involved. 

MURDER MOST FOUL

The featured PIs’ cases entailed murder and abuse, including rape and child molestation. But cases also run the gamut of financial malfeasance and stock shortages to industrial espionage. On a more upbeat note, long-lost relatives have been reunited through a PI’s efforts. How much more is available for PI surveillance in the current age of online databases for tracking almost anyone? To say nothing of cornering computer hackers. 

A search for justice and truth by all the investigators was a theme throughout both books. Despite working with the sordid ills of humanity, these folks took a deep breath and forged on.

Both books were an interesting read. In McDermid’s book, some of the female PIs read and enjoyed a few of the fictional PI series extant at the time. The only fault found with the fictional PIs? They (or their authors on their creations’ behalf) needed to get a personal life. So, I may begin reading up on Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone or Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski, or even McDermid’s Kate Brannigan.

 

Chet and Bernie – Investigative Duo

Chet and Bernie - Investigative DuoBernie Little, a private investigator, and Chet, his dog, make an appealing investigative duo. Chet, the narrator of Dog on It, by Spencer Quinn, implies that the brains of this duo doesn’t always walk on two legs. He considers himself an equal partner with Bernie.

Bernie and Chet search for a smart, pretty teenager in this. their first recorded case. Is she just a runaway as her divorced father insists? Or is it something more sinister like kidnapping? In the heat of the case, the kidnappers wallop Chet and kidnap him, too. He ends up in an animal shelter staring down a technician who’s about to euthanize him. How can Chet get home to Bernie and tell him the case is virtually solved?

Spencer Quinn created a smart, believable and likeable narrator in Chet. Since dogs feature prominently in everything from Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang to W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans, Chet is in good company. Indeed, Chet’s intelligence and persistence keep Bernie on track more than once. Chet and Bernie insinuate their way into your life with their tough-guy exteriors and good-guy hearts. Cue up the next book in the series about Chet and Bernie, investigative duo par excellence.

Dog on It
©2009 Spencer Quinn
Atria Books