The Whisperer in Darkness
Distracted of Breadmakers Row
Letter appearing in the Gerelden Gazette, 363 U.I.
My alchemical studies have been rudely interrupted this last month by reports of the Lord Furnscote Affair; specifically, that the city watch have still failed to unravel this most elementary mystery. I have decided to provide them with some assistance, since they seem so incapable of carrying out their appointed task, by describing how a professional investigator should go about working through to the conclusion of a case.
Firstly, it is necessary to understand three methods of logical reasoning. The first is DEDUCTION; if you know all the starting conditions of a problem and the methods applied to it, you will know the outcome. This is often not as useful in the circumstances of a mystery however; we know the result, say a murder, and we may know the method but the cause is what we wish to discover. In this case we might use INDUCTION to work back. Induction, however can be quite a complicated and uncertain procedure. Certainly, I do not expect any of Gerelden’s Finest to be capable of it without causing themselves a fatal aneurysm.
The third option, ABDUCTION, is not strictly logical itself. With abduction, you examine the results, the outcome of the mystery. You take into account all the things you know about human behavior, physics, weapons etc. and hypothesise a set of circumstances that would cause the result presented to you. So, if you have a body lying at the bottom of a cliff with severe injuries, and you know the laws of gravity, you might abduce that the person fell off the cliff. You cannot know for certain that it is true, however. Abduction only ever provides hypotheses, never facts. Once you have some working theories though, you can review other evidence to try and use it to decide between them. For example, you decide to look at the railings at the top of the cliff to see if they are intact or not. Always remember, when you have eliminated all other cases, whatever remains must be the truth.
I will now suggest a short series of steps in which abduction can be put into practice during a case.
Firstly, the investigator(s) must thoroughly examine the problem and discover possible clues. As many relevant facts must be obtained as possible, and all extraneous ones sifted. Gathering clues is rarely a matter of chance, like a dice roll, but rather determined by whether the investigator is tenacious and diligent enough in searching. In this case, where there is watch manpower available, some of the load can be transferred to them.
The second stage of the investigation should involve retirement to a place where thinking can be done. The investigators should together review their work and begin to abduce cases; that is, imagine scenarios that would lead to the clues observed. It is important at this stage not to be prejudiced towards or against a particular hypothesis.
Thirdly, the investigators should turn their attention to points where their cases may fall down. What complications are there, and are they really what they seem? Review your clues and assumptions often; don’t imagine more restrictions than there really are. Seek out more clues that can help you. Again, don’t rely on luck here. Rather, have several working cases and think to yourself, ‘if this were true, what other clues would I expect to find.’ Then, go and look for them.
Fourthly, the detectives must narrow down to a single case which fits all the criteria to produce the observed clues. They must be absolutely certain that all conditions have been satisfied and the case is watertight because, in the fifth and final stage, they must carry through on their convictions and arrest or otherwise confront the culprit(s).
I hope that this short but well overdue introduction to basic investigation technique is helpful to the Gerelden city guard; in the interests of returning to my studies, I anxiously await news of the arrest and trial of Lord Furnscote’s Second Footman.
Raest of Breadmakers Row