Revealing Fingerprints

109 years ago today, for the first time ever, fingerprint evidence was used in a high-profile murder case. A pair of shopkeepers in London — Thomas and Ann Farrow — were found beaten to death. Scotland Yard detected the motive to be robbery. By examining the Farrows’ cash box, they were able to pick out a fingerprint that didn’t match that of the victims. It was that fingerprint that led them down the path to identify the killer as Alfred Stratton. Stratton would go on to be tried, convicted, and hanged.

Of course, the value of fingerprints was known well before the 20th century. In 1686, a professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna recorded observations about fingerprint patterns. And in 1888, Sir Francis Galton determined that the odds of two fingerprints being the same were 1 in 64 billion.


These days, fingerprinting is such a common tool used in investigations, that fingerprint residue alone can even serve as a clue. For example, in Get Back Jack, FBI Special Agent Kim Otto notices, “Fingerprint residue blackened the [speakerphone] buttons.” Otto is trying to figure out what exactly crime techs discovered about a murder.

In Due Justice, investigators dust a doorknob for fingerprints to help solve a murder case.

And in Fatal Distraction, fingerprints on paper may help to determine whether a suicide note was written.

But fingerprints can reveal more than the eye beholds. Did you know that sometimes, experts can use fingerprints to determine whether the person who left the print was a tobacco user, smoked marijuana, or used cocaine?? A fingerprint can even reveal whether the person who left it was a heavy coffee drinker!

Here’s a look at the different types of fingerprints. Which fingerprint type would a crime scene tech assign to you? The loop pattern is said to be the most common.

Fingerprint Types

There’s even a website out there that purports to match fingerprint types to personalities! Here’s the website if you’d like to have some fun with that:

So tell me, my fellow sleuths: What do your fingerprints reveal about you?

Meanwhile —

Caffeinate and Carry On!

Diane Capri

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One Response to Revealing Fingerprints

  1. Betty Gambill March 27, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    Hello Got the news about your new book which incorporates finger prints and how they help police. I worked for the state of California over 20 years ago and needed to be finger printed for the job. Well it turned out that my prints are almost non readable, as not there.They tried 5 times and accused me of altering my prints. However, they just do not show up for whatever reason. I have wondered why I had problems picking up some things and it turns out that finger prints give a certain texture or roughness so as to be able to do so.

    Love your books and get your newsletter. Love the series on Jack Reacher. Have a safe and happy day. Betty

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