Thomson’s debut work of nonfiction—part memoir, part guidebook—provides “the nitty-gritty of worker’s compensation insurance investigations.”
The author, a licensed private investigator, worked primarily for the Insurance Company of Southern California on suspected insurance fraud cases. His beat spanned from Modesto to Capistrano. His tools were both traditional gumshoe and high-tech, the essential components of what’s known in his industry as “sub rosa,” or covert, surveillance. Over a decadeslong career, which Thomson admits was low paying and “often humdrum,” the author recounts covering wrongful death assignments and scoping out cheating spouses. Sometimes, worker’s compensation insurance cases had their own unique and interesting twists; Thomson shares a memorable one in the short chapter “The Woman with Two Claims.” He examines the advances in surveillance equipment since the 1980s but notes that nothing works better than patience, a featureless car with good fuel economy and the ability to make quick U-turns, and old-fashioned note taking. Aside from being crucial to fact-finding, investigative notes serve as the raw material for requisite written reports. The author’s experiences as a process server helped him learn how to keep dogs at bay and navigate large apartment complexes. Thomson shares many small tips, some obvious, some subtle, on the legalities regarding privacy, as well as the importance of notifying local police of stakeouts and how to control the unprofessional and distracting “jiggle” that can mar clandestine camerawork. To identify the right person at an address, he suggests a unique method of mailing a large, bright envelope or a teddy bear, anything innocuous but easily spotted from afar, to establish the intended “claimant.” At times, Thomson’s writing reads as a dry surveillance report, but when he wanders into the shaky area of “pretext” and expresses his thoughts on running red lights or relieving oneself on stakeout, the peculiarity of his voice can be engaging.
Educational, entertaining; intended for starter detectives but ideal for anyone interested in the minutia of modern investigative work.