The Modern Detective · The Cuomo-sical · David v. Dersh

Plus a book-thief mystery, and what happened to Kendrick Johnson

Greetings, new subscribers! If you’ve just arrived thanks to the interview I got to do for our esteemed contributor Elizabeth Held’s Substack, What To Read If, welcome! Eve and I hope you’ll find Best Evidence useful. (If you’ve been around for a bit but haven’t looked at WTRI yet, it and B.E. form a very handy Venn; go check it out.)

We talked about the true-crime boom and my recent reads — I’ll be reviewing one below — and it was a delight all around. (Not least that pic she found. I think Bush II was still president! How did I get my hair to do…whatever it’s doing? Love it.) — SDB


A few things I’ve just realized about The Final Hunt For DB Cooper…

  1. The Twitter poll pictured above did NOT end with 36% voting for a live-tweet and 35% opting for aft-stairs ejection…it’s a literal tie! I could just chuck it out of the plane!

  2. But no, I decided to make next week’s discussion thread a live chat instead, because let’s have some fun with it; why not?

  3. Here’s why not: it isn’t its own discrete special. It’s a repackaging of a History’s Greatest Mysteries episode, and not only that, but I’ve ALREADY WATCHED THIS BASTARD.

I love you guys, but…not enough to re-watch a TWO-HOUR special that was sufficiently UN-special that I forgot I’d already seen it, and didn’t figure it out for A WEEK. (Oops. Also, hee!)

That said, we can still talk DB next week if you like — but we welcome other suggestions for discussion threads as well. Let us hear from you! — SDB

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The crime
Primarily fraud and other white-collar malfeasance. Bookshop.org’s summary of The Modern Detective: How Corporate Intelligence Is Reshaping The World:

As a private investigator, Tyler Maroney has traveled the globe, overseeing sensitive investigations and untying complicated cases for a wide array of clients.

Whether the clients are a Middle Eastern billionaire whose employees stole millions from him, the director of a private equity firm wanting a background check on a potential hire (a known convicted felon), or creditors of a wealthy American investor trying to recoup their money after he fled the country to avoid bankruptcy, all of them hired private investigators to solve problems the authorities either can't or won't touch.


The story
I saw a few reviews on Goodreads complaining that Tyler Maroney’s 2020 book doesn’t do what the subtitle claims — that the power of corporations to em- and deploy PIs in defense of their assets and/or brands isn’t the subject of an analysis of large capitalist entities as, functionally, nation-states. And I suppose that that’s true, on the merits; that isn’t what The Modern Detective is doing, at least not explicitly. And I agree that that other book is interesting, but so is The Modern Detective. It just needed a different subtitle, like Tall Tales and Short Cons from a Life in Corporate Intelligence, because that’s what it’s really doing. It’s a crimoir, and taken for what it is, it’s very good: a brisk read, very process-y about everything from hacking to stake-outs to PI licensure, with only the occasional attempt at cityscape poetics. He gets good quotes from colleagues, and explains how to track lamsters who take their pets with them, what to look for on a property the occupants want you to think is abandoned, and the proper handling of neighbors on the verge of “making” you as a cop or PI. Almost every bookmark I dropped involved tradecraft.

Maroney also furnishes a range of case and investigation types, so if you’re not connecting with corruption in Utah, you can move on to Meek Mill, or the exposure of a fabulist/deep-fake story sold to the BBC. There’s something for everyone…except the people who went in hoping for a more sociocultural irising out on the outside influence and resources of Big Business Yeah, there’s occasionally some “and now, my concluding paragraph”-type grand pronouncements, but mostly it moves right along. If you like Leverage, I think you’ll like this one, and while maybe full price isn’t indicated, it was on my library app in both formats. — SDB


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I really hope my screener request for Finding Kendrick Johnson gets cleared, because this case is a jaw-dropper. The trailer is below,

but in the event that you’re not a big teaser-watcher, here’s the graf that got me from the publicity email:

On January 11th, 2013, Kendrick Johnson was found dead in his high school gymnasium rolled up in a gym mat. The state of Georgia ruled his death as an accident, having died from positional asphyxia. When the family hired their own Forensic Pathologist, not only did he find KJ’s organs missing from his body during the autopsy, he determined the cause of death to be from non-accidental blunt force trauma. To this day, no one knows where KJ’s organs have gone.. So what really happened to KJ?

Look, I don’t know how they’re making gym mats down in the Peach State, but where I’m from, there is no “accidental” doing of anything with those stinky bastards; that apathetic ruling on the manner of death is an embarrassment. And then you just kind of don’t notice he has no organs?

Finding Kendrick Johnson is directed by Jason Pollock (Stranger Fruit, about the killing of Michael Brown) and narrated by Jenifer Lewis (Black-ish), I can tell I will find it enraging, and I will keep you posted on whether I get to review it early, but if I don’t, it’s headed to theaters this fall and VOD at the end of the year. — SDB

…Update: Got a screener; will try to review for next week!


Reeves Wiedemann’s investigation into the hacker stealing book manuscripts — with varying sizes of target and degrees of success — is a great summer beach read, actually. “The Spine Collector” is one of those New York longreads I wouldn’t mind seeing turned into a book its own self: process-y; gossipy about publishing; self-deprecating about the author’s immersion in a “case” that doesn’t exactly seem to have a “real” crime at its center. And I love how many prospective “victims” were like, let’s bullshit a bullshitter, and tried to trap the thief themselves:

By the fall of 2018, the thief had made off with dozens of books, although no one knew how many times people had fallen for the scam, so the total haul was likely much higher.

To many in the industry, the case felt like one that book people, having sold no shortage of spy novels, could solve on their own. “There’s a bunch of us amateur Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys who have made our versions of the Claire Danes Homeland wall,” said Baker, the scout. In the spring of 2019, Baker conducted a sting. After the thief emailed a European client asking for Of Women and Salt, one of the season’s hottest novels, Baker mocked up a PDF with the book’s cover page — followed by the text of Pride and Prejudice. Baker told his client to slip the Austen mash-up to the thief and then alerted others to their plan. If the thief was a scout, Baker hoped, they would unwittingly send the fake book to their clients. But the PDF never turned up. Others tried similar gambits to no avail.

This is one of those cases I’ll end up Googling every now and then in the future, thanks to the ending, which…isn’t one, exactly. Definitely worth spending one of your monthly reads on at Vulture — or keep an eye out for a copy of the August 17 issue of New York if you’re in a waiting room sometime soon. — SDB


Andrew Cuomo’s battles with disgraced consultant Hank Morris have become a musical. Morris, who went down in pension-fraud flames over a decade ago when Cuomo was New York State’s attorney general, seems to have made his prison stay a productive one:

In 2010, Hank Morris, a big-time political consultant and powerbroker, pleaded guilty to involvement in a pension fraud pay-to-play scandal. Andrew Cuomo, who was then serving as New York’s attorney general, successfully prosecuted the case against Morris.

Fast-forward more than a decade and Cuomo is mired in a political scandal involving sexual harassment allegations, one that has prompted his resignation as governor, while Morris is about to debut a new musical comedy based on his own brush with ignominy. That show, “A Turtle on a Fence Post,” first conceived while Morris was serving his prison sentence, will begin previews on Tuesday, Oct. 26, ahead of an official opening night on Sunday, Nov. 14.

The show started out as a one-man affair, according to Morris, but is now a seven-person production; it’s set to debut in the former Upright Citizens’ Brigade theater. For more on the case against Morris — which some say was Cuomo grandstanding by making an example of Morris for “common practice” pay-for-play behavior — try the New York archive. — SDB


I trust y’all already heard that Larry David ripped a strip off Alan Dershowitz at a Martha’s Vineyard grocery store. What strikes me about the story is twofold: a) David, at least in the version linked here, doesn’t comment, while Dershowitz does nothing but — and unconvincingly, to boot; and b) the subject of David’s ire was Dershowitz’s Trump ties, not Dershowitz’s Jeffrey Epstein ties.

I don’t know why it’s this aspect of the kerfuffle that I seized on, but I think it’s because of the ruling in the Trevor Bauer hearing, specifically the fucking revolting editorializing by the judge, which my esteemed colleague Craig Calcaterra gets into here. (CW: Bauer, in addition to his Trumpy-shitpig “brand,” is also accused of sexual assault, and the particulars may be upsetting. Please proceed with care for yourselves.)

Anyway, it feels like we’re “supposed to” root for David in that exchange, but this only gave Dershowitz the attention he craves. Can we please just shun the guy and get some peace and quiet? — SDB


Next week on Best Evidence: Upcoming properties with confusingly similar names; casting round-ups; and the hidden costs of prison.


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