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3550 Trousdale Pkwy

Obscura Society LA: Private Investigations at the Doheny Library

Join us as we dive into the history of detectives and become amateur sleuths for the day!

What is it that fascinates us about detectives, either working for police forces or in private practice? Is it the murky moral universe they inhabit, straddling the boundaries between the legal and illicit? The unsavory tactics they may utilize, either for their clients or the public good?

Join Field Agent Hadley Meares and USC Libraries True Crime exhibition curators Tyson Gaskill, Maureen Lenker and Anne-Marie Maxwell as we explore the making of the modern detective. We will learn about the world’s first police detective, the amiable French rogue Eugène François Vidocq and uncover the story of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which dominated the 19th century law-and-order landscape. We will explore how women, both in real-life  ("Dead-shot" Mary Shanley) and in fiction (like Nancy Drew in River Heights and Miss Marple in the UK) were routinely solving cases using their resourcefulness and keen deduction skills long before it was considered proper. The curator’s talk, featuring many items from the exhibition, will examine how the work of detectives permeates every aspect of culture including novels, TV, film, and podcasts.

During the second half of this event your new found knowledge will be put to the ultimate test. You will be tasked with solving the mystery surrounding the death of Jimmy Salaro and the $500,000 in gold police believe he stole with Charlie Crawford’s gang. Their efforts have taken them through twists and turns, down dark alleys, and into the Doheny Library stacks—but with every clue, they’ve only uncovered more questions. It will be up to YOU to solve the mystery, with the help of a logbook containing information previously gathered about the Salaro case. Find clues scattered around the USC campus, solve the mystery first, and you'll win a prize- and the satisfaction of being a modern-day Phillip Marlow—at least for the afternoon! 

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