Karen’s Killer Book Bench: How Do Private Eyes Do That? by PI & Best-selling Author Colleen Collins

Collins_HowDoPrivateEyesDoThat BLOG ONLINE PR 800

 読書KAREN’S KILLER BOOK BENCH: Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!


Second Edition


This second edition of How Do Private Eyes Do That? is a compilation of new and updated articles written by Colleen Collins, a real-life PI. Sample topics: History of PIs; an investigator’s equipment and online techniques; conducting surveillances; how PIs work with cold crime scenes; case studies; writing tips for crafting plausible private eye characters and stories; glossary of PI terms; and lists of PI blogs, websites, training courses, and online magazines.

Audiences: Private investigators, mystery writers, armchair detectives, fans of the private-eye genre, and those curious about the real world of private eyes.

Second Edition


A Mysterious Blonde and a Missing Quarter-Million Dollars

I thought Karen’s Killer Book Bench readers would enjoy this real-life mystery that we solved based on a single piece of information from our client: He suspected a thirty-ish, blonde woman. That was it.

Lots of Assumptions and No Evidence

Our client told us his elderly uncle had been a Scrooge-like character who’d saved a lot of money over the years, at least a quarter million. But after his sudden death by heart attack, they discovered his savings account had next to nothing in it.

How did our client know that his uncle had previously saved a lot of money? Apparently he’d once shown a bank statement to his young great-niece who had since moved to another state to attend college.

A Neighbor Claimed the Blonde Was a Regular Visitor


Figure 18: A neighbor saw a tall blonde visiting the elderly man (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Our client suspected a blonde woman, possibly in her early thirties, might have defrauded his uncle as she had been his only visitor in the last six months of his life, according to a neighbor who’d observed the blonde’s comings and goings. He had no idea who this blonde was or what her relationship might have been with his uncle.

The uncle liked talking to a young great-niece, but wasn’t on speaking terms with our client and other relatives. Any attempts to communicate with him were met with hostility and anger, so no one in the family had any idea who this blonde might be. One night I said to my husband, “Maybe the uncle was living the life he liked. Ignoring relatives who got on his nerves, and talking only to lovely young women.”

Was the blonde for real? The snoopy neighbor said the blonde had always “walked away from” the uncle’s house. This could mean the blonde had been walking down the sidewalk away from someone else’s house.

We decided to start canvassing the neighborhood, ask if anyone had seen this blonde actually visiting the elderly man.

Knocking on Neighbors’ Doors

We knocked on door after door, asking if anyone had noticed a thirty-something blonde visiting the man’s home. After numerous “no’s,” we finally got a yes.

A young man said he’d noticed a tall blonde entering or leaving the old man’s place several times a week, and that she drove a vintage sports car. However, he’d only caught a glimpse of the car as she always parked on the far side of the man’s home, where it wasn’t visible to most people on the block.

And another yes. A middle-aged woman said the day after the elderly man’s death, a blonde had entered his house with a key, and exited with several boxes of items.

We Extended Our Canvassing

The blonde was real. And apparently quite close to the uncle if she had a key to his place. We let our client know of our findings, and suggested he change the locks.

We brainstormed what steps to take next. Was the blonde a paid companion? If so, maybe the two of them only had visitations in his home, after which she left. In our walk-through of the house, however, we didn’t see anything that helped to identify her.

Or maybe the uncle thought she was his girlfriend? He didn’t drive, nor did he have a car, and no one had noticed the blonde driving the uncle anywhere. Maybe they walked to one of the nearby bars or restaurants for their dates? In the evenings they wouldn’t have been easily seen.

A Bartender Knew Her Name


Figure 19: A bartender recalled her name and her favorite cocktail (image in public domain)

We walked from the uncle’s house, visiting every bar and restaurant in the neighborhood, showing his photo and asking waitresses, bartenders, hostesses if they had ever seen this man with a younger blonde.

Finally, a bartender remembered the woman and the elderly uncle. “They liked to sit at the bar and enjoy a few cocktails. She always ordered a Cosmopolitan. Afterward they’d move to a back booth and have dinner.”

He even knew her first name. Said she’d once mentioned driving up from [town name] to visit the old guy.

We knew this town, approximately a forty-minute drive from the uncle’s home. Lucky for us, it was also a small town, which meant we’d have better luck identifying her via a proprietary database search, from which we learned her full name, date of birth, and that the vintage automobile had been purchased within the last six months.

We next ran her data in our state court records database, and discovered she had a criminal record for—guess what?—embezzlement.

We forwarded the information to our client, with the suggestion he contact a probate attorney ASAP.

Meet Author Colleen Collins… 

Colleen Collins2

Colleen Collins has worked as an improv comedienne, technical editor, telecommunications manager, and private investigator. Since selling her first novel in 1996, she has written nearly thirty novels and five nonfiction books. Her articles and book excerpts have appeared in Cosmopolitan, PI Magazine, Pursuit Magazine, USA Today, and other publications.


Links to Colleen’s website, blog, books, etc.

How Do Private Eyes Do That? is currently available on Kindle. But you don’t need a Kindle to read the book. Amazon’s easy-to-download app lets you read it in your browser and on a variety of devices. A print version will be available in the near future.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2bnJFk2

Colleen Collins Books:

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes (PI blog):

Twitter: @writingpis


Amazon Author Page:


Collins_HowDoPrivateEyesDoThat BLOG ONLINE PR 800**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Colleen is giving away a Kindle copy of HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT? to two lucky readers who comment  or ask a question about private investigations on her **Author Peek** or Karen’s Killer Book Bench blogs. Thank you, Colleen, for sharing your story with us.

Don’t miss the chance to read this book!

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24 Responses to Karen’s Killer Book Bench: How Do Private Eyes Do That? by PI & Best-selling Author Colleen Collins

  1. Karen Docter says:

    Good morning, Colleen, and welcome back to Karen’s Killer Book Bench. What a great story about how you broke the case. They make it so easy on the television and you really have to be prepared to just keep digging. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!!

  2. Thank you, Karen, and good day, everyone! This case is an example of “old-fashioned footwork” in investigations. People sometimes think that current-day PIs do most, if not all, of their work sitting at the computer. Although the internet and databases are certainly handy, sometimes it’s “walking those mean streets” that solves a case. Lots of fodder in this case for mystery writers, too.

  3. Connie Reynolds says:

    This book sounds awesome! Definitely on my TBR list.

  4. Linda Moffitt says:

    The books looks really interesting and different Thanks for the chance to win a copy

  5. Thanks for dropping by, Linda!

  6. Donnell says:

    I own one version, but I always tune in to see what Colleen Collins has to say. She tells the best PI stories. I learn so much! Thanks, Karen!

  7. H. S. Stavropoulos says:

    Very interested in the book! Glad I followed the link from a post on SinC.

    I’m interested in how does one find a good PI?

  8. ELF says:

    What a fascinating look at the process of investigation, thank you for sharing. I bet you depend on tedious sifting of details and persistence! What is the most exciting or dangerous case you have dealt with?

  9. Molly MacRae says:

    It’s interesting that no one noticed them walking to the bar, especially because they seem to have done it often enough for the bartender to recognize them and know quite a bit about her.

    These kinds of real life PI details are so valuable. Thanks for a great blog, Colleen.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Molly. I think neighbors didn’t notice them because they exited the house on a side turned away from most of the rest of the block (she also parked her sports car on that side of the house). They also walked during the evenings (more difficult to be seen). It was a very interesting case!

  10. bn100 says:

    What was your favorite thing to investigate?

    • I’ll call it a favorite as it ended up reuniting a young man with his family, although it was a very difficult, at times heartbreaking, case. We tracked a young man from Colorado to another state where he had been brainwashed by a cult. With the help of another PI, that young man eventually returned home (to a third state) to a family who had been grieving for a long time. That cult still exists, btw (I included the case story in the book). Thanks for dropping by.

  11. Jill Broussard says:

    Thanks to Karen Rose Smith, I just discovered a really great book and author and a new site! Thankyou for sharing this, now I want to read more!

  12. Chris Goff says:

    Do you ever find out what the absolute finish is to a case like this? Did the client follow up? Did the woman give back the money, or was it invested in her sports car? Did she end up going to jail? I think the hardest part of being a PI is being finished once you make your report. Great story!

    • Chris, you said it exactly (the hardest part is being finished after writing the report). I’ve often wondered what became of that woman…and how many times she’d done it before.

  13. This is the first non-fiction book of its kind that I’ve seen. So happy to see its written by a woman, and written by a practicing PI. I really wanted to read more about this mysterious blonde! Good premise for a book.

  14. H. S. Stavropoulos, sorry I didn’t get back to check comments sooner! I think the best way to find a qualified PI is to ask friends, family, & co-workers for recommendations. Otherwise, contact the state professional PI association and ask for a recommended PI for the type of investigative service you’re seeking. Here’s a list of state organizations via PI Magazine: http://www.pimagazine.com/links/pi-associations-usa/

  15. Hi ELF,

    My husband just reminded me of one of our first surveillances on a drug dealer (woman) on East Colfax in the middle of the night. We were working for an attorney who was trying to find where this woman had taken her young 2-year-old daughter (the father was desperate to get his little girl back from the biological mother who’d essentially kidnapped the child). It was like being parked in the midst of the living dead. Bad, bad part of town. I remember lying flat on the floor of the van, terrified a drug dealer/gang member would look inside, see us, and all heck would break loose. Fast forward to a few months later…we eventually pinpointed the location of the little girl and were able to help reunite her w/ her father. A very happy ending (that little girl is now in a Colorado middle school, living with her dad).

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