Click on cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

Today I’m sharing a book excerpt from my current nonfiction book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye, which I’m happy to say has remained on several of Amazon’s Kindle Store’s bestseller lists since the book launched in August 2013.

The book kicks off with a history of private investigators leading up to the first U.S. female private investigator, Kate Warne; some tools of the trade; investigative tips; case stories; links to other P.I. blogs, periodicals, articles; excerpts from How to Write a Dick and How Do Private Eyes Do That? and much more.

Below is a book excerpt from Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye.

The Best Disguise in the World

In general, the best disguise in the world is a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses. Why? Studies on certainty in eye-witness identification show that the color and setting of the eyes, the hair color and style, and the shape of the head and face are all crucial in making positive identifications. A baseball cap and sunglasses obscure just about all of those. Check out the site banditracker.com for photos of bank robbers at the time of the robbery and see how many are wearing baseball caps and sunglasses.

An interesting note to add to baseball caps and sunglasses is their usefulness in the growing use of facial recognition software.  Although there are products (some fairly expensive) appearing on the market that advertise the wearer’s ability to circumvent facial recognition programs, I think a baseball cap & sunglass combo could still do a good job foiling facial recognition programs because the cap covers the hair length and color, and sunglasses disguise color and alignment of the eyes.

Next, I’ll give a general run-down on the kinds of clothing and other items I have kept handy for undercover investigations, starting with…

Jackets, Purses, Shoeswoman in trench coat noir

I like to mix up jackets, purses and shoes while on a surveillance, especially if it is a days-long surveillance.  Below I discuss each of these items in more detail.

Jackets

I keep a reversible jacket in the trunk of my car. One side is a paisley print, the other a solid dark color.  Especially when I’m conducting a foot surveillance, I use this jacket.  Let’s say I’m sitting on a seat outside a coffee shop wearing the jacket, watching a business across the street for the subject to appear.  He does, and I follow him for several blocks, conducting the surveillance from across the street.  At a certain juncture, I’ll slip into an alcove and reverse the jacket.  I often change my hairstyle or don a cap at that point, too.

Purses

I have various purses I use for work, and when working a lengthy surveillance, I’ll use several.  After all, what’s the use of changing your attire if you’re carrying the same purse?  Although, if a person were writing a humorous story with a bumbling sleuth, it could be she goes to great effort to change her clothes and hair, but gets “burned” (caught) because she didn’t think to carry a different purse or bag!

I simplify what I carry in a purse to include only necessary items and basic ID (of course I’ll need to carry my driver’s license if I’m driving a vehicle, but I make a point to not carry my P.I. card, investigative agency credit cards, etc.).  If, for example, I need to sit at a bar and order a drink while observing a subject who’s also in the bar, it’d be dumb to whip out my investigations agency credit card to pay for the drink — at the very least, I’m letting the bartender know that I’m a P.I.  I try to carry cash for such expenditures, but if I’ve run out of bills, I’ll use a personal credit card.

Shoes

stilettosJust like with a purse, it’s smart to also change your shoes when you alter your outfit.  What’s the use of swapping the look of your jacket, hair, hat, purse…and you’re wearing the same shoes?

Shoes tell so much about a person, too.  A year ago, my husband and I were staying in a hotel in another state.  We were alone on the elevator with a man who started telling us a sad, complicated story about how he’d lost his wallet, and he had no money to get a cab to catch a flight home.  He explained that he was a businessman visiting the city, and his airline ticket was on hold at the airport, if only he could find the means to get there.

He was wearing a suit.  His hair was neatly trimmed.  But when I looked at his shoes — dirty, ragged running shoes — I knew his story didn’t match up.  That’s when I looked more carefully at his eyes — pinpoint pupils — and realized he was on drugs.  My husband and I exchanged a glance.  We knew this was a drug user, a small-time con, who probably made enough money with this lost-wallet story to get his next fix and maybe a place to crash.  We didn’t want other people to get taken in by his story, and who knew when he might turn desperate and threaten people for money?  After we walked away, we contacted hotel security and reported his activities, including a description of his attire and those too-obvious shoes.

Hair

I’ve kept my hair long enough that I can easily create different hairstyles, everything from buns to ponytails to loose.  Once I wore a wig on surveillance because I’d surveilled this particular subject so often, I wanted a completely different look.  Sometimes I’ll toss a knit cap or scarf in my jacket pocket and use one or the other to change my look.

-End 0f Excerpt-

“SECRETS OF A REAL-LIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE is a research must-have.” ~Holly Jacobs, award-winning author of Steamed, featuring amateur sleuth Quincy Mac

“This book does a great job bridging the gap between our country’s first private investigators to the state of the modern sleuth…a must-read for anyone remotely curious about what a private dick(ette?) really does.”
~ Mike Spencer, P.I., partner, Spencer Elrod Services, Inc.
Private Investigator

Writing a Legal Character/Story?

Check out A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms – click here to read an excerpt.
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