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:
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.