McNair talks about her childhood and abusive, distant father, but somehow leaves a mystery in the air — did he really try to murder her mother and her? What about her other siblings? She has quite a few and they don't seem to have much of a part in her life or have experienced the same upbringing and issues, though she does mention briefly that one brother committed suicide. She seems devoted to her octogenarian mother, but maintains her distance from her and her Mississippi roots.
She is observant and diligent when it comes to detecting. Why does she avoid the obvious hints from a local Mississippi private eye that investigating her father's life might help answer many of her questions and put some of her issues to rest? McNair's whirlwind travels around the world, multiple relationships, and avoidance of marriage seem to always be tied back to the one big relationship in her life — her parents' marriage. That's a book I would have liked to read — her in-depth investigation of her parents' past. It might be intrusive, even creepy, to investigate one's family, but wouldn't a true detective also find it irresistible?
McNair does bring up the emotional debris that comes with taking a peek into others' lives. Although her investigating does seem to help many — she reunites lost relatives, helps innocent and impoverished people avoid jail — she doesn't always get to see how their stories end. She may produce all the facts that a person needs to contact their lost relative, but she has to hand over the paperwork and leave before the final scene is played. Did the client eventually contact their missing family member? McNair usually never finds out.
Detectives Don't Wear Seat Belts is a memoir, but it also reads as a bit of a mystery. For all of its author's desire to take us along on her breakneck pace through her life, the reader never gets to go too far below the surface. Maybe that's how McNair wants it. Like the boss of the detective agency who she never really gets to know with the assortment of different hats for undercover work —cowboy, baseball, fedora, etc. — it probably isn't in a born detective's nature to want to reveal too much of themselves. They are in the business of staying in the shadows and turning up facts about others.