The girl detectives of olden times were able to make do with a few rudimentary tools of investigation: a flashlight, a bobby pin, a magnifying glass, and perhaps a notebook. Well, good for them! But today's sleuth needs a full arsenal of tools – both analog and high-tech – to stay competitive in the mystery-solving game. If you're considering crimesolving as a lifestyle choice, make sure you've outfitted yourself with a few essential pieces of equipment.
While the detectives of yore had to spend hours cajoling uncooperative police officers and wary public servants into handing over documents and other clues, a laptop and an internet connection can now eliminate many of these hassles for a tech-savvy detective. Social networks are a goldmine of personal information about suspects, internet databases offer access to the kinds of public records that used to require an inconvenient trip to City Hall, and online translating tools make it a snap to sift through documents in foreign tongues. On top of that, a good, heavy-duty laptop can be used to bonk criminals over the head when they accost you in a dark alley.
Miss Marple probably never dreamed of the day when she'd be able to investigate hard-to-reach spots without having to rouse herself from the comfort of her sofa. Now, with the help of a flying, remote-controlled, camera-equipped robot sidekick, the whole world is open for detection. No longer must you spend precious hours scaling fences, circumventing security systems and chartering speedboats to remote islands in hot pursuit of a criminal. Just send your handy drone.
Some things never change, even when you have a drone at your disposal. Whether you're a newly-minted gumshoe solving simple neighborhood crimes or a dyed-in-the-wool investigator chasing a criminal mastermind across the seven continents, there comes a time in every sleuth's life when you must go undercover. And nothing turns the janky pile of laundry on your floor into a serviceable disguise faster than the right wig.
Trying to crack The Mystery of the Haunted Circus? You'll fit right in if you're wearing a rainbow-colored clown wig. Are you certain your perp is hiding in a smoke-filled backroom at a futuristic Tokyo nightclub? Only a hot pink bob will get you past the bouncer. And when it comes time to play femme fatale in order to trick a dopey accomplice into spilling all their secrets, everyone knows that criminals are incapable of resisting the power of luxurious blonde waves. So when you decide to wed yourself to justice, make sure you bring with you a full trousseau of faux-tresses.
Skype's just for talking to your mom, right? Wrong! While everyone knows that Skype is the best way to stay in touch with friends and relatives over long distances, fewer people realize that it offers a full menu of features that make it a Swiss Army Knife of detection. Need to case a Moroccan bazaar but don't have time to actually fly to Morocco? Hire a proxy who already lives there, and have them use Skype to report back to you as they uncover dirt. Forgot to brush up on your French just before you need to infiltrate a Parisian parrot-smuggling ring? Use Skype to pipe a live translator into your earpiece on the fly.
With capabilities that include file sharing, group chat, and computer screen-sharing – on your phone, tablet or computer – Skype will keep you in constant communication with all your sources, and gives you instant access to all the information you need, whether you're constantly on the move or an armchair detective who prefers to do all your detecting from your parlor.
Still unsure how Skype can aid you in your quest to become the next Hercule Poirot? Check out Skype's educational video below, which chronicles the travails and triumphs of a lovable Russian pet detective. Then wax up that moustache, toss out your bulky flashlight in favor of the lightweight one built in to your smartphone, and get solving.
Bennett Madison is the author of the Lulu Dark Mysteries (Penguin/Razorbill). He lives in Brooklyn.