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The rise of the Internet has perhaps sped the fall of a romantic character second only to the cowboy in American myth: the private eye. As the tracing of missing persons becomes, in many cases, as easy as searching for their names in any one of the online national phone directories, the spiritual sons and daughters of Sam Spade and Miss Marple are falling on economic hard times. So here’s to smarter, more elusive criminals, who can evade the all-entangling Web. And to the cyber-shamuses who will track them down but won’t play the patsy for them.

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