Review - THE FINGERPRINT THIEF, Carolyn Beasley

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The Fingerprint Thief
Sarah Arden
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Book Synopsis

Sarah Arden is a forensic technician with a special talent and a medical abnormality. She can profile a person’s passions from a fingerprint, yet due to disease has no classifiable fingerprints of her own.

On a cold winter night, Sarah is called to Melbourne’s Williamstown Beach where a young woman has been murdered. When Sarah attempts to print the girl, she notices that the fingerprints have been removed. Sarah not only identifies the girl but discovers that beneath the facade of the young woman’s life as an environmental activist and anthropology student lies a web of ritual, secret protest groups, and a fractured family determined to destroy each other at any cost.

In a city of transition, where progress takes precedent over history, rivers mysteriously flow backwards and forgotten citizens turn to the superstitions of the past, Sarah discovers she is facing an evil that has broken the most sacred law of nature.

Book Review

A debut crime novel from Australia, THE FINGERPRINT THIEF is written with the focus on the forensic technician. Not that surprising given the "CSI Effect" that so many people talk about these days. Set in Melbourne, the novel uses Melbourne's Williamstown Beach as the location of the body, with the action set within that inner-city environment, on the fringes of Melbourne's CBD, developing a somewhat dark and sombre atmosphere, quite fitting for the action and location.

Reading is such a personal experience that often it's possible to find that, despite a personal dislike of a book, there's something to be recommended to another reader. In THE FINGERPRINT THIEF these positive aspects are a tricky prospect.

The main character in this novel, Sarah Arden is a forensic technician with no fingerprints of her own, and the ability to profile people's passions and emotions from their fingerprints. Brave move this. Taking the idea of forensic science and giving it a paranormal twist. Keeping everything set in the realm of the normal whilst it's doing that. It's a stretch that at points is doing very hard labour.

Unfortunately that's not the only element that's been sentenced in THE FINGERPRINT THIEF. Getting a forensic technician involved in all aspects of an investigation might be a given in TV programs of that ilk, but here, the contrivances employed to get Arden to the centre of the action are doing some seriously hard labour. As a result of that plot seems to come second to the machinations and gets murky.

Alas there's not a lot in the way of redemption in the resolution to the story as well as it shuffles, ultimately, to a climax which just isn't believable. Even allowing for the fact that you've been reading a book in which you're happy to accept a forensic technician getting emotional feedback from fingerprints.

Perhaps with some bold-faced pronouncements about Arden's role and less of what felt like research regurgitation, the plot could have been tighter, the action more believable and, as a result, Arden's particular gift more acceptable.

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