Why Found-Again? Because I was sure as a kid that I had the detection “right stuff”—and by that I mostly mean a magnifying glass. For the fingerprinting chapter, “The Clue of the Cashbox,” we can add Johnson’s Baby Powder, Scotch tape and a paintbrush to the list.
The Premise: With the town’s fingerprint specialists out of commission, Frank and Joe get pressed into service when a doctor’s office is burglarized. How small is this police department, anyway?
I mentioned last time that The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook was written in collaboration with retired law enforcement, and this chapter clearly leans heavily on the consultant. Frank and Joe spend no fewer than seven pages explaining to their hapless pal Chet how fingerprinting works, in excruciating detail and with frequent reference to “persons” as though the Hardys just arrived from narrating Dragnet—and all before we even get to the crime scene. From there, it’s a ratio of five lines of story to 15 lines of technical information and everything you ever wanted to know about collecting and comparing fingerprints, analog-style.
The Verdict: Mixed, but mostly positive. As a story, “The Clue of the Cashbox” is abysmal; the first chapter did a much better job of integrating knowledge into a real narrative, and the solution to this “mystery” turns out to be a nephew ex machina anyway. My childhood self, who bought the book for the technical information in the first place, ate this section up—and though the techniques are dated, it remains a fascinating little glimpse into ’70s forensic science. Just try not to imagine poor Chet going into a boredom coma in the first half and let the dusting techniques wash over you.
- I did, in fact, attempt to raise and lift fingerprints with baby powder and Scotch tape when I was a wee thing. My parents had a Formica-topped wooden coffee table that may have been the only surface capable of responding to this treatment. I taped the results to construction paper. Ah, youth.
- Here is a neat forensic science website I found while researching whether finger oils and sweat are the same.
Next time: How lost can a city be if Benton Quest can find it?