Whether you are writing a mystery or solving a case as a private investigator, you need to have some tools at hand to help with the investigation.
Meriah Lysistrata Crawford, a private investigator and owner of Rhino Investigations, has covered a wide array of cases ranging from background investigations to patent infringement, and even a murder, but not marital infidelity. She also is a full-time assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
She shared some of her tools with the Central Virginia Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Wunderground.com provides historical weather, which is ideal if you need to know if the weather could have influenced the investigation.
Google maps help with setting the location or determining the ideal spot for a stake out. “You don’t want to get burned,” Meriah told the group. She explained that getting burned is when someone not only sees you but they know what you are doing.
The maps also provide you with information about a neighborhood. If Meriah sets a story in New Orleans she’ll use Google maps to look at houses in a neighborhood so she can better describe them. Google maps provide possible street names for setting the scene, too.
Another website she recommends is pipl.com, which offers a comprehensive people search on the Web. The site notes: “Unlike a typical search-engine, Pipl is designed to retrieve information from the deep web. Our robots are set to interact with searchable databases and extract facts, contact details and other relevant information from personal profiles, member directories, scientific publications, court records and numerous other deep-web sources.”
Meriah uses Facebook to access a lot of information. She said it’s not that difficult to get a stranger to friend you, which allows her to find out information depending on their privacy settings.
Facebook also is valuable as a writer because it’s a great way to promote yourself. “As a writer you put yourself out there,” Meriah said. “You tell people when you are at conferences. It’s such an amazing tool for interacting with your readers.”
Now that you have the clues, good luck solving the case.