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The Red Thumb Mark Paperback – July 6, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“It would be difficult to find anywhere more nearly perfect stories of scientific deduction than the Dr. Thorndyke tales of R. Austin Freeman.” —The New York Times

“This man Austin Freeman is a wonderful performer. He has no equal in his genre.” —Raymond Chandler

“One of the undisputed milestones of the genre.” —Howard Haycraft

“[Dr. Thorndyke is] the greatest medico-legal detective of all time.” —Otto Penzler

“The Thorndyke books rank among the very best of modern detective fiction.” —S. S. Van Dine

“The most carefully established crime savant since Sherlock Holmes.” —Christopher Morley

“As with old wine, you learn to appreciate the bouquet, flavor, and body of the Thorndyke vintage . . . a priceless ingredient to your enjoyment of the pure detective story.” —Ellery Queen
--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

About the Author

R. Austin Freeman (1862–1943) was a colonial surgeon and British writer of detective stories. Deemed “the father of the scientific detective story,” he is also credited with the invention of the inverted detective story, in which the crime is first described and then followed by the attempts to solve it. The popularity of Freeman’s most beloved character, the medico-legal forensic investigator Dr. Thorndyke, who features in more than twenty-five stories, has affirmed his place among the finest of crime writers today. He died in Gravesend, United Kingdom.
--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: FQ Books (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003VQR1QQ
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,473,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Red Thumb Mark is the novel that introduces to the world one of the greatest "scientific" detectives in all literature: Dr. John Thorndyke. It is rightly regarded as one of the all-time classics in mystery fiction. Raymond Chandler, for example, who typically hated British detective fiction for its consistent implausibilities, found Austin Freeman's work and The Red Thumb Mark highly entertaining and readable.
The novel concerns Thorndyke's attempts to clear the name of a young man accused of stealing diamonds from a safe. A thumb mark (finger print) near the scene of the crime is the only evidence against the young man, but it is decidedly damning. Add a little romance, a sinister villian lurking in the background, and you have the ingredients that make up this story.
I found the work to be wonderfully exciting. Watching Thorndyke break down the evidence against the young man is a fascinating expereince. Though a person could argue that too much detail is given to the "science" aspect, you have to understand that these scenes are the backbone of this type of detective story.
In a day and age of corporate villiany, brutal crime bosses and hideous serial killers, The Red Thumb Mark might seem to some readers as painfully old-fashioned. Freeman's writing is similar (and often compared with) Conan Doyle, and there's little doubt that Freeman found inspiration from the Holmes canon. However, the novel's old-fashioned flavor is the very reason to recommend it. It's fun to walk the streets of Edwardian England, to see the sights, to hear the gentlemanly discussions, to share the thought processes of one of the great detective minds. This is the real magic of the novel.
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Format: Kindle Edition

One of R. Austin Freeman's favorite topics is the use of fingerprint evidence in crime solving. His opinion is that it isn't worth much. I'm a fingerprint expert from way back (I was a CSI before it was fashionable), and I think it's worth a lot. But he's right in this: Fingerprints can be forged, and have been forged. The specific device he used in this fascinating book would no longer work because of DNA evidence, but during the entire time I was involved in fingerprint examination it could have worked. His method of proving that it did not prove what it purported to prove was very similar to what I would use to make the same discovery. It was this: If you have two fingerprints that are EXACT duplicates of one another, at least one of them was forged.

But when Freeman wrote this novel, nobody knew that axiom. So his originality is such that I was extremely impressed. In fact, after reading all of Freeman's works as I have done, I would say that he would have made an extremely good CSI himself, using no more scientific methods than those he used, up until the late 1970s. That puts him way ahead of the game, in the same way that Arthur Conan Doyle's late 19th century Sherlock Holmes novels were ahead of the game.

This is a very impressive novel, and I cannot imagine anyone with any interest in either crime fiction or criminalistics of any type who would not want to read everything s/he could find by this brilliant author.
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Format: Paperback
Freeman's Dr. Thorndyke is frequently compared to Sherlock Holmes, and I like to think the two characters would appreciate each other. I personally have a slight preference for Thorndyke because he has more conscious respect for logic and the scientific method and is a warmer person.
In this tale, Dr. Thorndyke, who is primarily employed as a medical expert witness, is asked to mount the defense for a young man accused of the theft of diamonds from his uncle's safe. The evidence against Mr. Reuben Hornby--his bloody thumbprint inside the safe--is so compelling that even his own solicitor is convinced of his guilt. Thorndyke, however, is equally confident that the thumbprint is a forgery and, with the assistance of Dr. Jervis and Thorndyke's resourceful servant Polton, sets out to prove it. He makes quick progress, too, because he soon finds himself the target of several cleverly engineered assassination attempts.
While I was quite certain early in the book as to who was responsible for the theft, I liked how Freeman made the point that it is one matter to know who did or did not do a thing, but it is yet another matter entirley to prove your knowledge in a court that is not only not ready to believe you but is governed by policies in direct conflict with your methods.
Dr. Jervis played an interesting role in the case, at once keeping the reader apprised of key facts and insights and distancing the reader from Thorndyke's speculations. He also had an internal conflict regarding his interest in the lovely Miss Gibson that provided even more confusion for the reader. Freeman did an admirable job of making me wonder till the very end about Miss Gibson's level of involvement in the crime.
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