Why doing an investigation is like crowbaring up a floor

I’ve been doing some work in my study over the past couple of weeks: crowbaring up the carpet tack rails around the outside, clearing everything, trying to get underlay to lie flat, putting down some of the flooring and then realising the rest required an electric saw and calling someone to come and finish it for me.

The floor is now down, which is very exciting. It looks almost as if, over a year after I moved in, the majority of the rooms in the flat might become habitable. Yay.

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Anyway, while I was crowbaring and singing along to Christina Aguilera, it struck me that crowbaring up bits of floor is quite similar in some ways to conducting a private investigation.


Because you just have to find the weakness. 

A lot of people assume, when I tell them what I do, that I have some sort of immensely unusual skill that makes me into a natural investigator. I suppose that’s not far from the truth, in some ways: I was drawn to investigation because it fits my personality and skillset.

But a lot of investigation is just tenaciously working through lots of boring detail until you find that thing.

The one thing, that leads to another thing, that leads to another thing, that… leads to a dead end.

And so you start again, and you find that one thing, that leads to another thing… and so on. Until you find the series of things that leads you to the answer.

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The repetitive task of crowbaring around the sides of my study reminded me of this. Manoeuvring the wrecking bar into the slightest gap between the tack rail and the floorboard, wiggling it back and forth, despairing as it doesn’t get any purchase. Removing it, moving down the tack rail a little bit, trying again. Pulling. Getting one end up and using that to give yourself more leeway, until eventually the whole tack rail pulls out with a satisfying pop.

And also, the times when you’re not careful enough in an investigation, and it jumps up and bites you in the ass. Or the times when you’re not careful enough with a crowbar and you fall backwards, whack yourself with it and split your knee open.

Crowbars are surprisingly sharp, you guys.

Anyway, thus concludes our investigation lesson for today. Next time you’re wielding a crowbar, think of me trying to wiggle my way into the tiniest shred of a clue and making my way to the end of an investigation.

And remember not to accidentally take a slice out of your knee with it. That’s a good lesson too.

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