Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Detectives Don't Wear Seat Belts - Cici McNair


Detectives Don’t Wear Seat Belts
Cici McNair
Center Street

Nonfiction/Memoir

If this were a novel, and Cici a character, she’d be completely unbelievable and unrealistic, with a history that defies all logic. The thing is, this isn’t a novel; it’s nonfiction. And Cici actually lived (and continues to live) this life, only changing names to protect various people of varying degrees of innocence.

Born in Mississippi, she endured some trials in her childhood that she reveals to the reader only gradually. She went on to travel the globe, even writing and reporting news for the Vatican. No small feat for a Protestant. One day, living in New York City and needing a job, she decided she wanted to be a detective. Where most people check the want ads, Cici likes to look through the Yellow Pages. That’s how she hit on the idea. She found out, fairly quickly, through cold calling and ill-advised office visits, that most private investigators in the area were retired cops and male. She stood out a mile as not one of the bunch.

The advice she got early and often was, ‘don’t work for Vinny Parco.’ Naturally, she ended up working for him. Not least because he was the one who would hire her. She went out to work a case the first day she started, and she’s never stopped. Cici found her niche in life. She loves her job, and she’s pretty good at it, too.

Don’t mistake this for a ‘how to be a private detective’ instruction manual. It’s not. It’s clear, and Cici admits, that a lot of what happened was sheer luck, circumstance, and a whole lot of determination. She’s got a great writing voice, and a way of structuring her story so that, even when she skips around a bit, it’s quite easy to follow. The world private investigations is not a world of niceties, so expect some very explicit language and some seedy situations.

Not every case is laid out beginning-to-end. Most overlap, and some are left up in the air. Which, as she tells us, is what happens in real life investigating. I know I wouldn’t have made the same life choices or taken the same leaps that she did, but she’s someone I’d love to have lunch with sometime. The conversation would be fascinating.

Rating: 7 ½
September 2009
ISBN# 978-1-59995-187-4 (hardcover)

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