Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Watching the Detectives

Walking along the Rue Tronchet towards the Madeleine, a sign jutting out from the side of a building catches my eye; Dubly Detective. Amongst the standard street signposts for a pharmacie or an opticien, this feature seems a little unusual, particularly for a service that should have discretion as its keyword. Intrigued, I decide to turn detective myself and investigate further.

Locating the entrance to the building, I expect to find a plaque with contact information and perhaps some details on the specialities of the agency, but nothing is visible near the doorway. A glass door gives access to the building, and just behind this I spy a row of letterboxes. Again though, nothing can be seen for Dubly. Where to turn to next? Later, I check the Pages Jaunes, but again nothing is listed, although surprisingly I do find over 100 other such agencies or individuals listed in Paris.

Finally, I discover another trace. Dubly is recommended by the American Embassy as being somebody who can communicate in English and could therefore possibly assist intrigued English speakers. I decide to call the number given in the document, but as the phone begins to ring, I suddenly panic and hang up. I remember what I’ve been told about private detectives, that they are amongst the most paranoid people in the city, often with reason as their activities are carefully monitored by official police services. The detective will now be sure that something fishy is afoot, so I can’t call back. What should I do?

My trail has gone cold and I’m unsure of where next to look for an insight into this mysterious profession. I look again at the Yellow Pages and am surprised by the quantity of information that is given. The first in the list gives these details:

Affaires privées-Entreprises-Avocats-7j/7-Spécialiste Aff. conjugales-Confidentialité-Concurrence déloyale-enquêtes filatures

Many have detailed websites, boasting about the technology used and the fact that they work weekends and bank holidays. The site for the Agence SDI makes most interesting reading, and I'm very impressed by their ability to disguise themselves as a bush.

There is one name in the Yellow Pages list that stands out and sends my memory bells ringing - Duluc Detective in the Rue de Louvre. The agency is one of the oldest and perhaps the best known in Paris, due to its proximity to the Louvre. The slightly art deco signage will probably be familiar to Parisian promeneurs.

How could I find out more about these modern day detectives without making myself seem like a suspicious investigator myself? Only one solution is left, literature. In my neighbourhood of Paris, a new bookstore has opened called 'Terminus Polar’, selling only books on this subject. Surely here I would find an expert on the subject. I ask if anybody has written about the modern day Private Eye in Paris, but after much searching around, the lady running the shop has to admit defeat. The ‘Polar’ and its twin, the 'Film Noir' are popular genres in France, but the crime stories based in the city all tend to be based around characters employed in an official capacity. As such rebellious characters are tolerated, or indeed often encouraged, is there a need for a Private Detective? Why have a Marlowe if you already have a Maigret?

Two recommendations are made though. Firstly, the stories of Nestor Burma, a private detective created by Léo Malet. Malet was a true fan of American literature and his character was based on Spade and Marlowe. However, his tales contained little in the way of reality and were written in a far more humourous manner. Malet also wrote the magnificent ‘Trilogie Noire’, three stories with fantastically explicit titles; La Vie est Dégueulasse, Le Soleil n'est pas Pour Nous, Sueur aux Tripes. To the best of my knowledge, these have never been translated into English, and are currently scandalosly out of print and unavailable.

I purchase the second recommendation - Belleville - Barcelone, a story based in my neighbourhood and relating the tale of a detective in the 1930s. I may learn little about the detectives of today, but I was assured that I'd enjoy the story.

In France it seems that the work of the Private Detective today is neither glamourous nor especially interesting. The individuals in this industry do not have the right to carry arms, to search properties or to interview suspects, and their daily activities are in fact more akin to spying. Their missions are usually for companies who want to see if an employee is truly sick or has broken a clause in a contract, or most banal of all, for ladies preparing divorce cases against cheating husbands.

Leaving the shop, I conclude that this is a world that is better investigated in the pages of a book.

20 comments:

Squirrel said...

For fun you can watch Audrey Hepburn with her private detective father Maurice Chevalier in the film Love in the Afternoon. Chevalier is keeping his eye on Gary Cooper. a very cute film.

Squirrel said...

we have a detective agency here in Nyack too...I always wonder...

Tim said...

Ah... Elvis Costello!

Peter said...

I have also seen these signs and taken photos, but never managed to make an interesting post out of it, like you now did!

Nathalie said...

Great story, Adam! I loved it!

re your comment on my blog this morning, thanks for correcting me, I've changed that to blue tits.

Yes I read about your interesting past as a bird watcher, I remember your post about la maison des oiseaux. Thanks again for your help!

Cergie said...

Adam, tu es un détective véritable mais tu manques un petit peu de courage et n'ose pas trop te risquer. Ceci dit tu es honnête et le reconnais.

Comment veux tu faire appel à un détective si tu ne sais où le trouver : il lui faut faire sa pub pour le client c'est ensuite seulement qu'il est discret. Souvent des fialtures pour les maris trompés ou jaloux.
Il y des détectives dans les bandes dessinées : Jerome K Blosch
Mallet a été adapté par Tardi en BD.
Des détectives dans la littérature autrefois : Rouletabille

PS : merci pour le mot "subreptice" > subrepticement. Un non français speaking de naissance montrant plus d'ouverture et de curiosité qu'un natif français !
:)

Starman said...

Need I point out the problem with looking up to see something while walking in Paris? I usually stop once or twice in each block to have a 'safe' look around.

Steven said...

Read your interesting post re private detectives in Paris. You should check out the novels of Cara Black. Her private detective Amiee LeDuc is based on the woman from DuLuc Detective. Google Cara Black and read her interviews regarding the connection to DuLuc Detective.

ArtSparker said...

Isn't that guy in the bush Terry Gilliam in one of his non-speaking parts in Monty Python?

Adam said...

Squirrel: Good suggestion. I could watch Audrey Hepburn all day.

Tim: 5 bonus points!

Peter: Do you know of any others?

Cergie: Tu as raison. Mes recherches sont un petit travail de détection, mais je ferai un détective plus que moyen!

Starman: Yes, a good detective in Paris needs to keep his eyes up...and down.

Steven: Thanks very much for the recommendations. I didn't know that the Agence Deluc was now run by a woman - how interesting! I've done a little research into the books now, and apparently they are just now being translated into French. I will try and find the original English versions, but I will tell the Terminus Polar shop about the French editions.

ArtSparker: You know what? I think you may be right!

Avid Reader said...

thanks for the recommendations. great post.

richard said...

Hi Adam - my first visit here (via Nathalie) - and I'm enjoying the posts. This one reminded me of several things. Poe's August Dupin - maybe he started the whole thing. Then Sophie Calle - in one of her projects she gets her mother to hire a detective to follow her. Maybe a French (or Parisian) twist to the genre

French in London said...

Detectives are so mysterious. I met once one near Paris for a reportage. A bit paranoid as you said. He explained me some of his tricks, how he was working, investigating, etc...

Thing is, i met him randomly 2 months ago near Opera. He was probably working on someone. Just the time for me to remember where i've been seing his face before, he was already gone.

Man, detectives are mysterious :-)

Adam said...

Hi Richard - thanks for visiting - and for reminding me about Dupin! Of course, the father of all detectives! I love those stories, but they were based on events that had taken place in the US and written by someone who had never even visited Paris!

dvr@acertainjustice.com said...

RE: Invisible Paris

I am a female detective and international investigations specialist and have worked in Paris on international investigations. Don't discredit private investigators with doing banal work. Nor dismiss our alliances (DuLuc is highly reputable).

I have recently returned from a search in the Middle East where I succeeded in locating the handicapped adult daughter of a French/US Boston family who disappeared from her Paris apartment eight years ago in 2001, leaving behind three young children. Despite police and family efforts, US consular and French embassy interventions, FBI and Interpol notification, and the fact that her last movements were traced to Cairo in 2003, this is where the case went cold.

The Egyptian, French and US police, Interpol, FBI, and embassies would not pursue the matter further. Her 82 year old mother in Paris, however, did not give up. She contacted me on Sept. 1, 2007, and hired me to help find out what happened to her daughter, even though eight years had passed since her disappearance.

With perseverance and relying on my international contacts, profiling skills and personal knowledge of the Middle East, I flew to Paris and then on to Cairo to re-open this cold case. The story involves searching in Egypt, Israel and Jordan, along with utilizing my own personal child abduction location and recovery experience, relentless record and immigration file searches, gumshoe street searches, and a bit of flexing the gray brain matter to piece together the clues.

One year to the date of my investigation into this case, on Sept. 1, 2008, I located my client's now 56-year-old daughter alive but locked behind a door and hidden behind a veil in Amman, Jordan.

The story is complex, but unfortunately, not uncommon.Police are busy. Interpol is underpaid and understaffed. The FBI are only really looking for domestic terrorists. If you want results, get your guts up and meet with a reputable private detective. Most of us have worked in intelligence, police, military, or law enforcement. Others of us have vast networks.

If you want to be a reliabel blogger or journalist, do your homework.

FYI, visit my website:
http://www.aCertainJustice.com

dvr@aCertainJustice.com

Adam said...

Hello DVR - and thanks for your valuable contribution. Firstly, I would say that I definitely do not consider myself to be a journalist, and secondly, yes, as my teachers used to say, I could and should do more homework!
I meant no harm to a profession that I know little about, and my post would surely have been improved had I been able to speak to someone such as yourself.

However, I do maintain that the majority of private detectives in Paris are involved in work for private companies and insurance groups. This is not to say that their work is not important, but that they are legally limited in the kind of work they can undertake on French territory. My conclusion was that it is mostly for this reason that the private detective in France does not have the literary glamour of their English or American counterparts.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and think it's great. I'm Cara Black, who writes the Aimee Leduc Investigations and yes, I based her Leduc Detective on the Duluc Detective agency after I interviewed the owner...

by the way I love Terminus Polar and two of my books in French are there :)

Cara
www.carablack.com

Anonymous said...

The FAMOUS detectives or private investigators in France, UK & USA / Click here :
http://www.parisdetective.com/detectives%20celebres.htm

Hillary said...

Hi, I really enjoyed your story - which I found doing a google search. I am a female PI in the South of France, in Nice. A few English online mags have done articles about me. If you would like more info about this terribly interesting business, I would be thrilled to assist. Not many female PI's in France.

All the best for 2014.

Hillary

Adam said...

Hillary: Sounds great, but how would I get in touch with you? Sounds like I need a detective.
If you do pop back here, you can contact me directly at adam (@) invisibleparis (dot) net

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