Sunday 8 August 2010


When Fiona commented on my blog post about Colin Evans’ biography of Sir Bernard Spilsbury about the fascination of forensics, she suggested that I write a blog post about fingerprints. And in the spirit of interactivity and responding positively and enthusiastically to comments, I thought – good idea, I shall do just that!

Fiona mentioned a personal connection with the history of fingerprints – she knew, in her youth, the daughter of Sir Edward Henry, who developed a classification system for fingerprints. What Fiona won’t have known is that, quite a few years ago, I mentioned Sir Edward in a story of mine. In fact, it was the very first Sherlock Holmes pastiche that I had published – ‘The Case of the Suicidal Lawyer’, which appeared in an anthology edited by Mike Ashley. Fingerprints only play a minor part in the story, but it’s a tale that I enjoyed writing so much that I’ve subsequently written several further Sherlockian pastiches. And I’ve been asked to write one or two more recently, but to my regret, work commitments have prevented me from doing so. I hope to get back to Sherlock, and perhaps the early days of forensics, before too long.

There are plenty of good books that deal with fingerprint evidence. One to which I refer from time to time is by Ian K. Pepper, Crime Scene Investigation: Methods and Procedures. The book covers a wide range of topics, and the chapter on fingerprints is especially useful. Ian, who lectures on the subject, is married to Helen Pepper, who also has great experience in forensics, and who has helped me on technical issues when writing a couple of my Lake District Mysteries.

One of the pleasures of attending CWA conferences, incidentally, is the opportunity to learn more about forensics and crime investigation. Over the years, we have had many interesting sessions, including one about fingerprints. And the photo was taken a few years back, at a conference at Appleby in Cumbria (lovely town, by the way). Ian Pepper is in the picture, explaining things to Russell James and me. That was the day I bought Ian’s book, and I’m glad I did.


Fiona said...

:) Thank you Martin! That's a wnderful photo - did you deduce that the unidentified fingerprints on the glass came from the corpse???

Fiona said...

:) Thank you Martin! That's a wnderful photo - did you deduce that the unidentified fingerprints on the glass came from the corpse???

Dorte H said...

Another inspiring post for a crime writer :D

I was also doing a bit of research yesterday; I have an uncle who is a great amateur geologist, a keen blogger who inspired me to begin blogging, and now he has also inspired me to research forensic examination of soil evidence. I found an Interpol report via google. So though my current cozy manuscript is not heavily laden with forensics, I have included a few bits my uncle will appreciate.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Actually, Martin, Sir Francis Galton (a cousin of Charles Darwin) developed a classification system for fingerprints still used today:

Unknown said...

WOw, I knew you'd written some Sherlock Holmes stuff but never really thought about it. I think I want to read some of those stories. Where can I find it?