In celebration of Darynda Jones's newest Charley Davidson mystery, Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (available January 24, 2017), we sat down with Charley herself and asked her for some crime-solving advice. Fair warning: some supernatural abilities are required.
A lot of people think that because I’m a private investigator who also happens to be the grim reaper, solving cases must be insanely easy. They could not be more wrong. It’s one thing to know whodunit. It’s another to prove it.
But I thought, for the sake of education, I’d break down my normal procedure when solving a crime. Some of my resources might not be as easily accessible to you as they are to me, but hopefully this will help in a general grand-scheme kind of way.
1. First, I drink coffee. A lot of coffee. Then, I get all the info I can from the person/people who hired me. I ask them everything I can think of. Sometimes people have more information than they think they do, and ferreting out that info is part of the job. (Also, as the grim reaper, I can tell when someone is lying or if they feel guilty. This lets me assess their part, if any, in the crime. It’s amazing how many people will hire a PI when they are guilty just to make it look like they are concerned and willing to do whatever it takes to solve said crime.)
2. Next, I drink more coffee. Then, I talk to witnesses, friends, and family of those involved. (Again, human lie detector. I often find the guilty party before the investigation has really begun.)
3. If I still haven’t shaken anything loose, I drink more coffee and talk to dead people. If the case is about a murder or a missing person believed dead, I can sometimes summon the victim and just politely ask him or her who had a hand in their demise. But the departed usually move on to the next plane, a plane to which I have no access. Thus, even for me, solving cases involves good old-fashioned investigative work. And luck.
4. So, my next step (besides drinking more coffee) is to call in my crack team, which consists of my fashion-challenged assistant Cookie, my skip tracer friend Swopes, my departed thirteen-year-old investigator Angel—Angel can go places no living person can and he will often get clues from overheard conversations, etc.—and another friend who can do things others can’t, a former slave demon named Osh’ekiel. Osh for short.
5. By this point, I’ve had a crap ton of coffee, but some salient clue has usually surfaced and we can work off that. This is often the part where my surly husband, one Mr. Reyes Alexander Farrow, insists that what I’m doing is too dangerous and asks me why I’m risking life and limb for a perfect stranger. I remind him nobody is perfect. Gawd, I love clichés. And coffee. Mostly coffee.
6. So, by now I am super caffeinated and fairly confident I know all the most important aspects of the case, aka the whos and whys and wheres. Next, I have to prove them. This is where I drink more coffee and call in my curmudgeonly uncle Bob, a detective for the Albuquerque Police Department. We set up some kind of sting to get the guilty party to cop to his or her actions. The whole production involves a concentrated effort of my entire team and a lot of luck. No, seriously, luck plays a HUGE role in my life.
7. The guilty party is caught, and I can go on to my next important life decision. Like Mexican or Italian. Being the only grim reaper this side of eternity takes a lot out of a girl. Sustenance is key.
Okay, if you are a PI or thinking about becoming a PI, this how-to might not be the perfect match, but if there's one thing we can agree on it's this: coffee is always an idea!
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Darynda Jones, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, won a Golden Heart and a RITA for her manuscript First Grave on the Right. A born storyteller, she grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, annoying man and beast alike. Darynda lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys.