Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review of "Investigative Interviewing: The Conversation Management Approach" by Eric Shepherd

As promised, Dear Reader, for your delectation and delight, my review of Eric Shepherd's mighty tome on "Investigative Interviewing".

At 522 pages, this is no lightweight volume. And I mean that both literally and figuratively.

A week on after having received it, what are my thoughts?

My first impression is that this book is intended to be a reference text to accompany one, or several, courses on this subject. In fact the rear blurb goes so far to confirm this:

It is especially relevant to those engaged in the Professionalising Investigation Programme and those attending investigation and investigative interviewing courses - basic, intermediate, advanced, and specialist.
The sheer volume of information presented might seem daunting to a casual reader. It seems that each page presents the reader with new methologies, acronyms, conceptual models and critical points to keep in mind while conducting an interview.

The subject is treated in a logical matter, the book is structured in a way where later chapters build on the information introduced in earlier ones. By the time you have reached the chapter on interviewing a witness (Chapter 12) you already have a (theoretical) grasp on the basics of conversation management, relationship building, active listening and other tools required. Interviewing a suspect is dealt with even later, in Chapter 15.

Perhaps it is  best to consider this book as a technical manual. The writing, while clear and not difficult to understand, is dry and clinical. Anonymous previously commented that the layout reminded him/her of a university text book and that the book certainly reads like one.

I concur.

My only real complaint really is quite unjustified in that I only purchased a book, not enrolled in a course, yet I feel that in order to benefit the most, it really needs to be used in conjunction in a training environment where practical exercises and mock interviews allow you to practice in a controlled environment as well as receiving feedback on all your WOBs, SE3Rs etc.

So, in brief:

The Good

  • Volume - The sheer amount of information presented. 
  • Inclusiveness - From interviewing a suspect, a witness, a child or a vulnerable person, a person who refuses to comment, or someone who has prepared their own statement - this book covers a range of eventualities along with strategies and tools to use when faced by them.
The Bad

  • Complexity -The volume of information might be difficult to process and properly implement without practice and feedback in a controlled training environment.
The Indifferent

  • Pricing - The price may seem a bit high but then again you are getting quite a bit for your money and second-hand copies seem readily available. (While Amazon list this book at US$110.00 at time of review, I note that you can purchase new copies from other stores on Amazon at almost half that price).
  • Durability - I think I would have prefered an option to purchase in hardcover. The book isn't flimsy or poorly bound, but I think it will be a source of regular consultation and could have benefitted from at least a more robust cover.
The Verdict

Without wishing to seem a gushing fanboi, and acknowledging that this is the only book solely dedicated to investigative interviewing I have read, I would not be surprised if this becomes THE authoritaive reference on the subject - at least in regards to the PEACE model of interviewing.

I give it an unasbashed A and believe that if you are routinely conducting interviews or obtaining statements, you will not be disappointed. Even if not everything is completely relevant to you, there will be more than plenty that is.


  1. Ever thought about running your own course on interviewing/investigation?

    1. I don't think the world is quite ready for that.

      Maybe in time.

    2. How about now?