A Suitable Job for a Sleuth

  I spent part of the workday, yesterday, moving boxes and furniture because our office is being renovated. (Yes, with us in it.) I felt like a mover. Some time ago, while researching ideas for a potential novel, I stumbled across a New York Times article from the 1800s about professional mourners in Paris going on strike for better wages. Turns out professional mourners are called moirologists. They’re still around, although the term “moirologist ” isn’t commonly used anymore. There’s a UK-based company called Rent a Mourner, www.rentamourner.co.uk, that offers “discreet and professional” people to “attend funerals and wakes”. This got me thinking about jobs. Specifically, jobs for an amateur sleuth. How might a sleuth’s occupation lead to mayhem and mystery?
My question for my fellow Miss Demeanors: What’s the strangest and/or coolest job you can think of for an amateur sleuth? The job doesn’t have to exist currently. An amateur sleuth in the speculative fiction realm could be a professional vampire hunter or a space junk remover. A sleuth in a historical novel might have a job that used to exist but no longer does, like a gas lamplighter or a resurrectionist. (I hope resurrectionist is a now-obsolete job.) Here’s what my co-bloggers had to say.

Susan:
I was recently talking to a historian who specializes in Tudor jewelry. I think that could lead to some mayhem. Also, Alexia, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work of Christine Trent, but her protagonist is a Victorian undertaker.

Cate:
In Jamaica, folks hire professional mourners when someone dies without a lot of living relatives. People actually cry and gnash teeth. It’s just too embarrassing to leave this earth unmourned. My mom says that she’s been to funerals with them. You wouldn’t want to not do it and have grandpa wandering around waiting for people to cry for him.

I think an electrician would be a cool job for an amateur sleuth. He’d get to go into strangers’ houses –maybe deal with cases in which the electricity had been cut to disarm the alarm system. Or maybe it’s a better job for a villain. After I send my current book into my publisher, I intend to write a story about a guy solving a personal mystery who owns a home tech company. What did Jarvis do?

Robin:
I’ve thought about a freelance mortician’s makeup artist as an amateur sleuth. Kind of outside my area of expertise but would make for an entertaining, if grisly, series. A slightly weirder and more fun idea I’ve got on the back burner is a car mechanic as the sleuth. Every car built after September 1, 2014 has the automotive version of an airplane “black box” originally intended to provide crash data that mechanics now use for diagnostics. These black boxes also give law enforcement all kinds of information on cars and their drivers.

Me:
I believe professional mourners ate common in Asian countries. Maybe their popularity in certain areas is related to ancestors/elders being revered in those places. I like the idea of hiring moirologists. A sparsely attended funeral just seems tragic.

Could an electrician or a mechanic tamper with the car’s black box to make it seem to have been someplace it wasn’t? Maybe the mortician’s makeup artist is the mechanic’s girlfriend. I could see them faking injuries and tampering with the black box to mislead an investigation. An episode of “Midsomer Murders” hinges on the ability of a makeup artist to apply fake bruises.

Tracee:
At Malice Domestic this year one author described her new series with a “Professional Organizer” as the sleuth. Made sense to me…. they nose around in people’s private (and forgotten) junk. Perfect for an amateur sleuth to fall into mysteries.

Michele:
Every time I have a manicure or pedicure, I marvel at the creative names given nail polish and say I’d like that job. Not manicurist, but the position where you get to make up names like “Meet Me at the Altar” and “I’m Suzy and I’m a Chocoholic.” Imagine sitting somewhere all day dreaming up names like “Hands off My Kielbasa” (from the international collection) to “No Tan Lines” (from the Fiji collection). But could my Creative Polish Namer (CNP) become an amateur sleuth? Absolutely. The competition between Opi and Esse must be murderous. The pressure to come up with the sexiest names for the most alluring colors a motive to kill. Surely there would be leaks within the ranks. Beauty magazine editors selling secrets. The CPN at one company is found dead holding a bottle of “Blood Bath” (from the Lady Killer collection). Her competition is a person of interest. A new color, “Nailed,” is christened at the end when we find out who killed the CNP.
Oddly enough, this sounds like a cozy to me.

Me:
Did you see the article about the AI programmer who tried to teach her computer (recurrent neural network–I guess that’s a fancy computer) to come up with names for paint colors? It came up with names like Barfly, spring tumchid, jeurici rain, mud, bank butt, dorkwood, caring tan, and sink. Personal faves: copper panty and shivable peach.
Hey, maybe neural network programmer would be a good job for a sleuth. She could investigate the “murder” of her neural networked computer by a human nail polish color namer who was made redundant by her AI program.

Robin:
Here’s a fun example of machine learning (aka neural network which isn’t exactly a computer but the explanation is long and boring): http://ternus.github.io/nsaproductgenerator/
It creates a new NSA code name and “project sheet” based on words used collections, dumps and leaks found online. They make for intriguing story prompts

Tracee:
Love that!
We have a cottage behind our house (it started off as the original kitchen for the house) and we had a tenant who was 21 and studying to be a mortician. Struck me as an odd choice if you weren’t born into the tradition …

Cate:
Fun though…. maybe we can have a contest on missdemeanors to come up with a story about a theme (500 to 1000 words) … make a story about the mortician’s girlfriend. We will write our own and then ask readers to submit. Publish the best one on the blog in a nonbinding way….

How about it? Anyone want to take us up on the challenge? Write a short (500-1000 word) story about a mechanic, a mortician’s makeup artist, and a moirologist. It has to be a mystery, of course. Bonus points if you can work in Tudor jewelry, a professional organizer, and nail polish. The contest isn’t affiliated with Wix, Facebook, or anybody except us. The only prizes are bragging rights and a really cool Missdemeanors webcam cover to keep homicidal neural networks (or human hackers) from spying on you through your laptop’s camera. Also handy for covering peepholes in hotel doors. Participating doesn’t obligate us to you nor you to us in any way, shape, or form. Your story remains yours but we’ll post the winner on the blog. We’ll be the judges. We can’t guarantee you fame, fortune, or a book deal but we’re pretty certain you’ll have fun.
Not up to writing a story? Share your ideas for crazy, cool, or freaky amateur sleuth jobs instead.

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