Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Colleen Collins

As promised yesterday, fellow Colorado mystery author Colleen Collins is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Colleen is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release, The Next Right Thing, with TWO winners, US addresses only. Tomorrow evening, she will pick the winners from those who comment on this post.

In The Next Right Thing, tough-minded private investigator Cammie Copello always gets results, even if it means stepping into a gray area where rules are broken. That gray area is what caused the breach between her and high-profile attorney Marc Hamilton. But when his career is on the line, and the only one who can save it is Cammie, she has to make a choice that will either redeem or shatter both their worlds…for Cammie, what is the next right thing?

“Colorful, skillful description and lively, fully fleshed-out characters contribute to this great read.”
     - Romantic Times Book Reviews

Sounds like a yummy read to me! Below is Colleen's guest article. Please leave a comment for her, and if you have a question for her, ask it!

Looking Under the Alibi: The Work of a Legal Investigator
by Colleen Collins

Hello, everyone!  Thank you to Beth Groundwater, a friend and fellow writer, for welcoming me to her blog. Besides being a writer, I am also a private investigator. In The Next Right Thing (Harlequin Superromance, March 2013) the protagonist is a female private investigator who, like me, specializes in legal investigations. Because many of you are mystery writers, or love reading the genre, I thought it would be of interest to discuss legal investigations; chat briefly about V.I. Warshawski, a legal investigator character created by author Sara Paretsky; and describe some tasks a legal investigator might tackle.

What Is a Legal Investigator?

In a nutshell, an investigation is the gathering of facts to form a cohesive and well-reasoned picture of a given situation. Legal investigation is also a gathering together of facts for a given situation with the addition that these facts will be presented in a court of law.

The legal investigator applies her evidence/fact gathering through exacting requirements, called rules of evidence, which must be met for their admissibility for the judge and jury to see and hear.

V.I. Warshawski: A Fictional Legal Investigator

I view V. I. Warshawski, a private investigator character created by writer Sara Paretsky, to be a legal investigator. V.I. attended law school and worked for several years as a public defender, which attests to her understanding and passion for the law. She became a PI in 1982. For fans of the V.I. Warshawski books, you know she works independently as well as for attorneys (not uncommon for real-life legal investigators, too).

A Legal Investigator’s Job

Some legal investigators work in-house at a law firm, public defender or district attorney’s office, while others work as independent contractors (under the umbrella of their own investigations agency). A legal investigator’s tasks might include:

- Locating and interviewing witnesses
- Drafting witness interview reports for attorneys
- Reconstructing scenes of crimes
- Helping prepare civil and criminal arguments and defenses
- Serving legal documents
- Testifying in court
- Conducting legal research (for example, drafting pleadings incorporating investigative data, devising defense strategies and supporting subsequent legal proceedings)
- Preparing legal documents that provide factual support for pleadings, briefs and appeals
- Preparing affidavits
- Electronically filing pleadings.

A legal investigator’s training and skills often include:

- Good people skills, sincere interest in people
- Understanding people’s rights to privacy, city ordinances, statutory laws
- A passion for righting wrongs.

Lawyers as Legal Investigators

Sometimes lawyers become legal investigator rather than practice law. That’s certainly true for the PI-character V.I. Warshawski. It’s also true in my private investigations agency. For eight years my husband, who had a lengthy, former career as a criminal defense attorney, was my PI partner. His knowledge of the law was a boon to our investigations business; in fact, many of our first cases came from defense attorneys who had worked with him in the past.

He has since returned to the practice of law, but he tells me that sometimes he misses being out on the streets and investigating cases. On his law blog bio, he writes that he is “proud of the many hours he has spent on the streets working as a legal investigator” because he knows that “not-guilty verdicts and huge jury awards are won on the street as much as they are won in the courtroom.”

As for me, I’m still on the streets (and in the office) conducting investigations.  Or writing about them.

Thanks, Colleen! Now, who has a comment or question for her? Good luck in the contest!


joye said...

Thanks for the information about your book. I like reading these kinds of supenseful books.
I have yet to read one of your books so hope I win this one.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting book, thanks for chance to win one!

Colleen Collins said...

Hello everyone! Thanks for dropping by. If you have a question about legal investigations, leave a comment and I'll be happy to answer.


Debbie said...

I'm writing a mystery with a P.I. so this was very timely information!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Waving hi to Colleen and Beth. This is so fantastic. I had no idea your new release was out. Shaun and Colleen have been godsends in answering my technical questions. Anything these two produce are on my auto-buys! Congratulations!

Colleen Collins said...

Thanks, Donnell. As we were tweeting last night, it's a shame the series Vegas might be cancelled. Shaun and I enjoy watching the investigations on that show, circa 1960s, in the days before databases, GPS devices and smartphone apps.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, folks, and keep them coming! Colleen won't draw winners' names in her contest until tomorrow evening.

JackieW said...

Very interesting blog. I never stopped to think about there being different kinds of private investigators. Gee, I learn so much from blogs.

Colleen Collins said...

Hi Jackie,

Before I became a private investigator, I wasn't aware either of the different specializations in the profession. Here's a few: pet detection, computer forensics, insurance fraud, accident reconstruction, computer forensics, background investigations, legal investigations. lists a wide variety of investigative categories (click the "Resource Library" tab).


Colleen Collins said...

Hi, I put all your names into a virtual hat and the names picked are...

Jackie and Lynn!

Thank you, everyone, for dropping by. Beth, thanks for making me feel so welcome.

Jackie and Lynn, please email me your full names and mailing addresses to
writingprivateinvestigators (AT) gmail--DOT--com

I'll get your books into the mail over the next few days!

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for visiting, Colleen, and for being so generous with your contest!