The Red Thumb Mark

Cover image for


Author: R. Austin Freeman (Clifford Ashdown)
Published: 1911
Language: English
Wordcount: 68,304 / 211 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 77.9
LoC Category: PS
Series: John Thorndyke
Downloads: 4,000
Added to site: 2005.09.25 11409

Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone prize winner for 1907.

Show Excerpt

ange thing has occurred with regard to this safe. It happens that one of Mr. Hornby's customers in South Africa is interested in a diamond mine, and, although transactions in precious stones form no part of the business of the house, he has, from time to time, sent parcels of rough diamonds addressed to Mr. Hornby, to be either deposited in the bank or handed on to the diamond brokers.

"A fortnight ago Mr. Hornby was advised that a parcel of stones had been despatched by the Elmina Castle, and it appeared that the parcel was an unusually large one and contained stones of exceptional size and value. Under these circumstances Mr. Reuben was sent down to the docks at an early hour in the hope the ship might arrive in time for the stones to be lodged in the bank at once. Unfortunately, however, this was not the case, and the diamonds had to be taken to the works and locked up in the safe."

"Who placed them in the safe?" asked Thorndyke.

"Mr. Hornby himself, to whom Mr. Reuben deliver


Average Rating of 3.9 from 7 reviews: ****
Mr Kindle

Dr Thorndyke is a brilliant character that makes this book worth reading,i like the idea of people using finger-print machines to collect fingerprints as you would collect books or stamps or something! worth reading

A very good early example of detective fiction but ending was a bit of a let down,Still a book worth reading!


I liked this story. Although the main "mystery" was quite techincal, the mystery of the romance countered this. Characters were interesting and the plot did not advance too slowly.


Dr. Thorndyke is not a Sherlock Holmes imitator. He does not reach his conclusions by pure deductive reasoning, but used science (the science of his day) to prove his theses. He is also much more likeable than Holmes, and cares for people much more than Holmes does. I've been a Holmes fan for many decades, but when I discovered John Thorndyke, I found a logical and scientific detective more to my liking.


Not one of his best in my opinion. As a true lover of mystery, I found this to be technical and boring.

The Author

R. Austin Freeman cashed in on the Sherlock Holmes craze as did many others of that time. However, of all the Holmes stylistic imitators he probably remains the most respected.

The Story

A theft of diamonds occurs. The only clue is a piece of paper with a red thumb print and a few drops of blood inside an empty safe that formerly contained the diamonds. The proprietor of the business refuses to let the police fingerprint his employee’s who are also his nephews.

John Thorndyke is challenged with a seemingly impossible task of proving the innocence of his client, whose thumb print matches exactly the thumb print taken from the safe.

Bottom line

If you find imitators always boring or disappointing regardless of talent… keep browsing my friend.

If on the other hand, you’ve read every Holmes story and long for more. Well, for you my dear friend, the chase is about to begin… once more.

Linda Otto

Thorndyke is wonderful! A worthy successor to Sherlock Holmes. This is great sport--all of the "scientific" methods used to solve crime are impressive when one considers the era when it was written...and it isn't so overwritten like many of the books of the time. Good plot, good characters. Some great comedy. Excellent all around. Enjoy!

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