The protagonist of Kalayna Price’s Alex Craft series, Alex Craft, has an interesting job: Craft has the ability to raise the shades of the dead so that they can communicate to the living how they died. It’s usually not in a pleasant way, perhaps even involving a murder. Following that revelation, Craft works within the legal system to find out the “whodunit.” There are two books already published in the series, and the next, Grave Memory, is set to release on July 3, 2012. Craft isn’t the only one out there working as a paranormal detective; other names in this illustrious field include Harry Dresden, Chess Putnam, and Charley Davidson, among many others. Seeing these familiar monikers and knowing what they do makes you wonder what it really takes to solve crimes in the paranormal world.
1. You can’t wear THAT to a crime scene!
In any job, wardrobe is a crucial factor as it provides the first impression. The paranormal PI may have a less stringent dress code than other employment options, even if the detective works in concert with a police force or other authority. Craft has been known to strip off blood-soaked clothing in the confines of an officer’s vehicle, with no replacement in sight; this is understandable, at least, but not the best plan when there is already tension, sexual or otherwise, between the two. Davidson sports a crazy amount of quirky t-shirts that would definitely be frowned upon in a stricter office setting (though should be for sale, if they aren’t already.) Harry has pranced around in sweat pants and cowboy boots, or worse, nothing at all, when time wasn’t sufficient to change clothes. Really, when the paranormal come a callin’, a good detective sometimes cannot afford the time to dress to impress, though this bunch always makes an impact.
2. The tools of the trade
The popular opinion is that a woman would be lost without her purse; this is completely applicable to both Craft and Putnam. Not only are their purses handy for holding lip gloss and keys, it’s essential in transporting the necessary implements to perform planned (or unplanned) magic, like graveyard dirt, chalk, asafetida, and a knife, just in case. Harry, on the other hand, would look odd with a man-purse, especially when he usually travels with a blasting rod and staff. His biggest work asset is the trench coat he wears, initially to hide his tools, but then it too becomes an additional measure of protection against the supernatural bad guys.
As well as their immediate needs during an investigation, they must also be prepared for the fallout. When you’re battling all manner of demons, fairies, and other scary creatures, the risk is high that you’ll come out of it beaten and bruised. Ice packs, band-aids, carefully applied makeup (or glamor for Craft) are great items to have on hand. Plus maybe a good ichor remover too?
3. For love or money?
Business isn’t always lined up outside the office door of a paranormal detective. Craft’s particular area of focus is still relatively new in her world, so the pickings are slim when it comes to prime paying jobs. This often means having to share a hot dog as a meal with her dog, PC. It’s a perpetual concern for Dresden also; he’s forever on the verge of being evicted from home and/or office. For these character, it comes down to love of what they do and a willingness to see wrongs righted that gets them through each case. They must be supermodel skinny though...
4. The hours are exhausting.
It appears true that evil never sleeps. Craft, Dresden, and Putnam have been known to work until overwhelmed by exhaustion. Not only do they have to keep pace with the scary ghosts, beasts, what have you, that they’re after, most of their jobs happen at night (the freaks really do come out at night!) A good detective won’t let a little thing like a body’s need for rest take them off the trail of the suspected killer; they need to follow the leads and soldier on until the case is finished. Putnam has the added curse of having to work at night to banish the ghosts, while using her daytime hours to research unknown runes and such. While Dresden would probably benefit from this, with sleep deprivation giving him a more rugged look and drawing sympathy from the females in his life, Craft and Putnam would just end up looking bedraggled.
5. The right attitude to co-mingle with royalty and deities.
A paranormal PI is never sure who will walk through their office door next. Be it a woman whose husband has gone off the deep end and become a full on evil warlock or one of the Fairy Queens. To this end, they have to maintain a no “BS” policy, searching for the truth in their clients as well as in the suspects. The fae royalty is a larger concern in Dresden and Craft’s case, with one owing a debt to his “fairy godmother,” while the other is intricately tied into the fae world. Putnam merely has to worry about church elders and their doctrines, walking a fine line as she goes about her business. Davidson, of course, has the fate of the world on her shoulders and a battle with the ultimate evil god pending. Whatever they have to deal with, diplomacy should be a consideration for each detective in question. Coincidentally, none of them seem to have the ability to be diplomatic at all. Perhaps there’s a level of jadedness required in their work. Then again, it may have to do with their refusal to submit to bullies, regardless of the forms they take.
6. Exercising restraint.
Craft and Dresden have a whole lot more power under their belts than they would allow themselves to use. Even Putnam has the potential to reach into a darker place and has at times had to tap into those resources to save her own neck. But in all cases, it’s that fight between good and evil, right and wrong that ultimately makes these characters likeable to their readers. It isn’t that they are infallible, but more that they prevail in their inner turmoil against trying to use the greater powers at their disposal.
7. A lonely, thankless task.
These PIs tend to be troubled when it comes to relationships of the heart. Craft is forthright about her penchant for one night stands that fill a need without too many complications. Dresden just always seems to be down on his luck with women, which could be a fallout from his reputed chauvinistic tendencies (which he considers more chivalrous to the damsels in distress.) Davidson’s issues are more along the line of not having actually been in the same room as Reyes for any of their encounters; this doesn’t bode well for the after cuddle.
And with barely any time for rest, personal hygiene, or even some relaxing yoga breathing techniques, these steadfast detectives share another commonality: they are all incredibly underappreciated. While time and again, the results should speak for themselves, Craft, Davidson, and Dresden are met with constant doubt about their abilities. With Dresden and Davidson, it’s easier to understand when the paranormal world is hidden from most “normal” humans. For Craft, though, she lives in a time when a rift has opened up between the fairy and human worlds and the fae are now accepted as true. Why then is she still mocked for what she does? It seems, even in an alternate world, there will always be prejudice and criticisms against what people don’t really understand.
While it might seem like a cool job to have, especially considering there’s nothing like it in our world (unless you count TV shows like Ghost Hunters), there are a lot of downfalls. The hours are relentless, the pay is crap, and there’s a good chance of being beaten up on every case. And the same question must be in the back of each of these characters’ minds: would I be better off not having these powers? That’s a tough call, but it sure is fun reading about all the adventures their vocation takes them on.
Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.