The most important element to being a successful PI is being tenacious. Howie writes "The PIs in this book believe justice isn't a given. Justice is the result of tenacity, pressuring public officials, continuous public outrage, and asking the right sources the right questions at exactly the right time. Collectively, these PIs also believe that they're the last line of defense for the vulnerable."
That willingness to be there for those who are trying to make sense of a difficult situation, grieving or afraid that they've lost a loved one forever, means that a PI may be their last line of hope, and they take on a huge emotional component of the cases they work. "Unlike cops or feds who will ultimately have to move on to their next case, PIS can work a single case for as long as they agree to and for as long as their clients remain satisfied with their efforts. The best PIs take on their clients' ghosts as their own."
Thus, the book profiles a master Private Investigator: Sheila Wysocki.
The sudden and brutal murder of her best friend in college Angie Samota in 1984 stunned Sheila; while she went on to work in other careers and raise a family, she couldn't shake the incident from her mind and wanted to find justice for Angie. Sheila felt prompted by a "God nod" to reach out to the cold case division in Dallas, and to begin calling for months, then years, to try to find out what happened in Angie's case. As Sheila continued to follow up, her head of neighborhood security in Nashville, J.D. Skinner, encouraged her to become a private investigator there, figuring that "if she passed, Wysocki would have the kind of license Skinner figured the Dallas police would take seriously." Unsurprisingly, the brilliant and determined Sheila passed, she began learning surveillance, developing interview techniques, and building up her case file and experiences. She "began research on all unsolved murders in the Dallas area starting around the time of Angie's in 1984 and ranging through the next two decades." In 2008, the Dallas Police Department created their cold case devision and were starting to use DNA: later in 2008, Sheila got contacted by Linda Crum from the (new!) cold case division at the Dallas Police Department, and finally was starting to hear the gears moving forward in finding answers. She finally got the answer she needed.
Sheila's story is contrasted with that of another master PI, Mark Gillespie of Austin, Texas.
Howie profiles his extensive background with years of service, dedication, and then delves into a case of that Mark worked on that's so sensitive in nature that all the details are anonymized. You'll have to read it for yourself - no spoilers here!