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In writing the following story, the author has had in view no purpose other than that of affording entertainment to such readers as are interested in problems of crime and their solutions; and the story itself differs in no respect from others of its class, excepting in that an effort has been made to keep within the probabilities of ordinary life, both in the characters and in the incidents. Nevertheless it may happen that the book may serve a useful purpose in drawing attention to certain popular misapprehensions on the subject of fingerprints and their evidential value; misapprehensions the extent of which may be judged when we learn from the newspapers that several Continental commercial houses have actually substituted fingerprints for signed initials. The facts and figures contained in Mr. Singleton's evidence, including the very liberal estimate of the population of the globe, are, of course, taken from Mr. Galton's great and important work on fingerprints; to which the reader who is interested in the subject is referred for much curious and valuable information.
Richard Austin Freeman (1862 - 1943) was a British writer of detective stories, mostly featuring the medico-legal forensic investigator Dr. Thorndyke. He claimed to have invented the inverted detective story (a crime fiction in which the commission of the crime is described at the beginning, usually including the identity of the perpetrator, with the story then describing the detective's attempt to solve the mystery). Freeman used some of his early experiences as a colonial surgeon in his novels.