As hobbies go, being a junior detective is very fulfilling. It’s not difficult to be a clever and resourceful crimefighter if you start your career like I did – with lots and lots of books, obtaining a comprehensive detective education from fictional adolescent detective characters. I’ve read all the authoritative texts-Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Three Investigators, Encyclopedia Brown. If there was a series about feisty, spunky kids solving mysteries, I was all in. (Except for the Hardy Boys. I can’t with them). If you did not spend your formative years obsessing over a mystery-solving career, don’t worry! I paid very close attention and took lots of notes on how to be a detective in my detective notebook (ALWAYS HAVE A DETECTIVE NOTEBOOK HANDY-I HOPE YOU CAUGHT THAT VALUABLE DETECTIVE TIP.). Since the world can always use more amateur crimefighters, I am happy to share what I know. It’s a master class you can take in the privacy of your own home, or hiding in your office at work, or behind the wheel at a red light – wherever you are surreptitiously* reading this.
*Being surreptitious isn’t required to be a detective but it doesn’t hurt. When you get a chance you should practice being surreptitious as fuck.
Junior Detection In Eight Easy Bullets
Language See how I used ‘bullet’ there? Start using use crime words frequently in your everyday conversation. It subliminally communicates to potential clients that you are looking for cases. Other good crime words are ‘fingerprint’, ‘safecracking’, and ‘haunted mansion’.
Your Prerogative You should be under the supervision of a laid-back, kindly aunt and/or uncle, a laid-back, kindly housekeeper, or a laid-back, kindly parent who is never home. This will allow for reams of unsupervised time, and you are going to need all that time because mysteries don’t solve themselves, kiddo. Laid-back supervision also keeps adults from saying anti-mystery stuff like “No you cannot go in that abandoned gold mine, it’s dangerous” or “No you can’t break into a suspected criminal’s house to look for evidence, it’s dangerous”. Worst case scenario, you might have to be an orphan. If you are going to solve mysteries, you can’t be weighed down by authority.
Posse You thought you would be a successful detective all by yourself? WRONG. It’s critical to have best friends who love fighting crime as much as you do. (If all you have are one or two best friends who love committing crime, that’s cool, but we will cover those books on another day. Also, you should probably get a lawyer.) Cultivate best friends who are always available to go with you anywhere at any time with no other interests or calendar conflicts. Also-successful detection involves delegation. Give your friends all the boring crap jobs to do.
Branding Dazzle people with a nickname that conveys you are smart enough to solve mysteries but are completely non-threatening, like “Girl Detective”. Or “Young Girl Detective”.
Sphere of Influence Cultivate a robust networking circle to ensure a steady stream of mystery referrals. The best scenario here is a close relative who is a police chief. Specifically, a small-town police chief, because big-town police chief isn’t a thing. The police officers who work for this police chief should be nurturing and supportive of your investigative career and not at all threatened by your reasoning superpowers. They should also be relied upon to call you from a crime scene and when you show up turn the solving of a case completely over to you, no questions asked, even if you’re not old enough to have a driver’s license.
(Not sure what all those nurturing, supportive officers do in all the down non-crimesolving time they gain by utilizing crack junior detectives. I suspect CSI fanfic and assembling IKEA police station furniture.)
Independently Wealthy You need a steady stream of income to bankroll all your deductions. Detectives gotta eat, yo. Since you’d never do anything as gauche as accept payment for your awesome detective-ing, this is when your laid-back, kindly minimal supervision comes in handy. If nobody cares where you are, are they really going to care when you ask for money to get there? (If you’re an orphan, it’s okay–you have a huge inheritance.)
Convenient Locales Live in or near a community where petty theft and light embezzlement are people’s hobbies. It is helpful if these communities have a large population of wealthy elderly who live in rambling Victorian houses, all of whom have unscrupulous nieces and/or nephews who need to get their hands on a family fortune unscrupulously.
Target Market Only agree to solve mysteries that take place in houses with attics and basements, castles with attics or basements, or abandoned theaters with attics or basements. That’s because all the clues are in attics or basements. If a mystery happens in a strip mall or a gas station, where are the clues? NOWHERE, that’s where. Because no attic or basement. What, you’re going to look for clues in a drop ceiling at a gas station? What’s detectivey about that?
Congratulations! You’re an official junior detective. Your newly cultivated air of adolescent authority is your entrance into the mysterious world of mystery. We passed a deserted theme park about three miles back. It’s got a No Trespassing sign on it. Go check it out.
If you need some Senior Detective action, check out Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books.