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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating, 2nd Edition

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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating

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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating, 2nd Edition
Techniques the Pros Use to Crack the Case
By Steven Kerry Brown
Alpha Books - A Member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc.: 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59257-652-4

Reviewed by Angela Evans - Posted February 25, 2009

So you want to write a detective novel, or you need to add a character that is a private investigator or has PI skills to you're your next novel, how are you suppose to learn what a PI does, or how they conduct an investigation. Look no further than The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating, 2nd Edition for all the information you need to give your PI authentic credentials and your story a solid dose of realism.

Written by Steven Kerry Brown, a former FBI agent and founder of the Millennial Investigative Agency, this book will teach you all you need to know from how to track down a dead-beat dad to finding out if your cousin Ken is in Federal Prison. It also covers just about every angle of the PI business from accessing public records to going on a stakeout. Brown's writing is accurate, informative, and he provides numerous examples of real cases that show you how to use the techniques he teaches in this book.

The book is divided into five main sections covering:
  1. Private Investigation, Business or Fun?
    This section details the various types of private investigators that exist, how to become a licensed, professional PI, the tools of the trade, and more.

  2. Getting the Scoop
    This section covers skip tracing (both basic and advance techniques), how to access public records, the ins and outs of the courthouse, using and accessing various databases including the credit bureaus, and everything you need to know about phone numbers from how to obtain a nonpublished number to how to pinpoint the location of a pay phone from which a call was made.

  3. On-the-Job Training
    This section gets down to the meat and potatoes of PI investigation techniques, such as how to conduct an interview or interrogate a subject, conducting both stationary and mobile surveillance, how to conduct a neighborhood investigation, as well as some nifty tricks of the trade.

  4. In the Field
    This section covers some of the more interesting aspects of PI work, from how to identify a cheating spouse and how to get the evidence to prove that they are cheating, the ins and outs of using surveillance devices within a private home and using electronic surveillance as an every day investigative tool, and how to catch a runaway teenager or a burglar.

  5. Advanced Techniques
    Building upon the techniques you have already learned, this final section provides even more detail on subjects such as background investigations, doing diligent searches in adoption and estate cases, digging through evidence, and what to do if you need to testify in court.

This is just the bare highlights of the wealth of information contained in this unbelievable book. Although it was written for current or wanna-be private investigators, as well as private individuals who need to track down a person or vital piece of information, writers of every ilk will find the information in this book to be invaluable. Not only does this book provide guidance on how your character should act and conduct their investigation, whether they are a private or amateur detective, but it also teaches you a plethora of techniques and insider information that you can use to seed your book or story with, so as to make it more realistic, and more interesting for your readers. I also discovered that the information in this book to be useful in another regard. I've been trying to do some background research on a book I'm working, and I needed to access some public records. I was getting nowhere on my own, but by using some of the techniques I learned in this book, I got the information I needed in about fifteen minutes, and for the cost of no more than two short long-distance phone calls. I was not expecting the book to be useful in this regard, and so was pleasantly surprised with this added benefit!

I highly recommend this book to both fiction and nonfiction writers, as a valuable reference book on all aspects of PI work and the ins and outs of Private Investigating. As well, if you happen to what to embark on a new career or are simply looking for a new revenue stream, after reading this book you might find that becoming a private investigator might just be the right choice for you!

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