Fingerprints were the de rigueur means of positive identification from the 1920s to the 1950s. In 1903 the New York State Prison system began the first systematic use of fingerprints in the United States for criminals. By 1904 Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas and the St. Louis Police Department had begun using finger printing. They were assisted by a Scotland Yard sergeant who had been on duty at the St. Louis World’s Fair Exposition guarding the British exhibition. In 1908 the first official finger print card was in devised.
In my Sanctuary Point series, set on the south shore of Long Island after World War II, stalwart detective Ian Daltry brings in suspects, gets out the marble slab, the ink, and the cards to finger print suspects. He then sends them to the lavatory where they endeavor to wash the mess off their hands with Lava soap.
At that time, every state and the FBI maintained voluminous, manually compiled, classified, and sorted finger print files. It would’ve been nigh a miracle to make a cold hit. There was nearly no way a latent print from a crime scene could be searched against all the various data bases country-wide as it can be done today with the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). The data bases were just too spread out for that type of search. However, once a suspect was developed through investigation, comparison of latent prints from the crime scene to the fingerprints of the suspect cleared lots of cases.
In those days, cases were solved the good old fashion way, going door-to-door looking for witnesses and asking questions. Developing strong investigative skills was a must. And circumstantial cases that would stand up in court were built by detectives, who had no computers to rely upon. Blood typing was available, but not conclusive. Still it would be compelling circumstantial evidence if the suspect had blood of the same type as the victim’s on his clothing.
Driver’s license and automobile license plate information was stored state-by-state in large, hand written ledger books. It took a phone call from local law enforcement to the state police or to the state’s motor vehicle department to get a look up. There was no NCIC computer system until 1967. Prior to that, the only way to find out if a car was stolen was by a telephone check of local police department hot sheets that were published daily in most cities. Police cars were radio equipped but there were no portable walkie-talkies. Most cities had call boxes scattered around town where police officers could periodically check in with headquarters. Every officer carried at least one dime with him in case he had to use a public phone booth. And it was a he. There were no female police officers.
There were also no tazers or pepper spray, so an out-of-control criminal would get a not so gentle tap of a black jack, sometimes called a sap or night stick. In my series the Sanctuary Point Police Department had a black jack hanging on the wall near the holding cells. In my Christmas whodunit, GOODBYE NOEL, it was used to threaten two mobsters who were getting out of hand during the booking process. There was also no Miranda warning during the detainment or arrest process. Detective Daltry simply pointed his revolver into the face of the bigger of the two and then marched them to the station. There was no doubt if they made a physical move on him that he would shoot.
The first body is found under a trimmed Christmas tree, the second as they ring in the New Year (1947), the third goes head long out a window. Will a young pediatric nurse determined to make it on her own be able to care for an infant whose mother was murdered and escape the killer who has struck again? Can she trust the stalwart village detective with her life and her heart as he works to catch this killer before somebody else dies?
Pediatric nurse, Katrina Lenart, grew up strong willed and independent minded, while sharing her mother’s flair for high fashion. When the police chief gives her an orphaned baby to care for, her maternal instincts take over and she’s willing to fight anyone who might not have the infant’s best interests at heart, even the man she’s growing to love. After an attempt is made to kidnap the baby, she and the resolute village detective team up and do some sleuthing, undercover at a cult as well as at a fancy ball.
Detective Ian Daltry is a widower with a child and is not interested in a new love. Hunting a killer who stops at nothing has placed him in the position where he must protect a beautiful young woman he’s drawn to. Is there’s something he’s overlooked in analyzing the case? Will he find out what that is before this ruthless murderer kills someone he loves?
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