Private investigating is not like it used to be. Popular media shows private investigators in old trench coats, snapping sneaky pictures of a cheating husband, or digging dirt up on a forest floor to find mostly decomposed bones in a cold homicide case. Perhaps private investigating was never so interesting, but it leaves London PI Paul Hawkes in a funny spot. Classical British literature compares Hawkes to Sherlock Holmes or James Bond, although they aren’t very similar at all.
Instead, Hawkes finds himself existing in an age where much of what people would typically hire a private investigator to find is now easily found on social media. No need to pay a PI to log into Facebook. He also finds that much of what a PI would put in their tool kit is now cheaply found on the Internet. Anyone can own a pen with a microphone in it if they want.
One part about the public perception of a PI that rings true is the number of times Hawkes is hired to investigate a marriage for infidelity. Before a PI goes out, they don a handful of gadgets to assist them: the aforementioned spy pen, glasses with a small video camera, and sticky facial hair of various kinds. If it seems silly, it’s because you might expect something like that in a children’s book, but sometimes all that a PI needs to blend in is a pair of glasses and a little bit of facial hair.
Before Hawkes goes out to catch a cheating husband or wife, he offers a baiting service to potential clients to see if their significant other is actually capable of cheating on them. Hawkes sends out an agent to flirt with the spouse at a bar, trying to give them a phone number or invite them home. If the gambit fails, it gives the suspicious party a peace of mind. If not, a full investigation launches. All in all, it’s not as dramatic as Hollywood wants us to think, but it’s not a boring job either.