When I was ten years old, I got a fingerprint kit for my birthday. I’d been obsessed with Nancy Drew mystery novels, and I was convinced that I, too, could be a spunky girl detective and track down all the dangerous criminals lurking in my suburban San Diego neighborhood. The fingerprint kit consisted of a brush and a baggie of black powder. I practiced by dusting various surfaces in my house, blowing off the excess powder, and using Scotch tape to capture the patterns. I never nabbed any dangerous criminals, but I did discover the interesting fact that fingerprint powder is really hard to clean off white walls and furniture.
Thus ended my career as spunky girl detective.
The years passed and I grew up to become a doctor and then a thriller novelist, but I never forgot my childhood fantasy of being a crime-fighter. I realize now that it was a variation of a universal fantasy we all share: that even ordinary people can do extraordinary things. It’s a theme we see often in fiction and in movies: Harry Potter, the despised boy living under the stairs, becomes the world’s greatest wizard. Luke Skywalker, a farm boy, becomes a Jedi knight. So why couldn’t a mere kid help catch a criminal?
In my newest novel Last to Die, that’s exactly what happens.
It’s the tenth in my Rizzoli and Isles crime series starring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles. This time they’re on the hunt for a killer who’s stalking three surviving orphans of different family massacres. Assisting Jane and Maura are a few brilliant young sleuths who belong to The Jackals, a student forensics club at the remote and mysterious Evensong boarding school. The three threatened orphans — Claire, Will, and Teddy — are now sheltered at Evensong, where frightening new events at the school make Jane Rizzoli wonder if the killer has tracked the orphans to the isolated sanctuary that was supposed to keep them safe.
But Evensong is no ordinary school, and Evensong’s students are certainly not ordinary children. Among the students is sixteen-year-old Julian “Rat” Perkins, who saved Maura’s life in my book Ice Cold. As president of The Jackals Club, Julian leads this oddball group of amateur detectives, and they have more than a few tricks up their sleeves — tricks that may save the lives of Jane and Maura.
I never fulfilled my childhood fantasy of being a girl sleuth who catches bad guys. But I can finally bring that fantasy to life in Last to Die, where it just might be the kids who bring down the killer.