James Tarr’s engaging and well-paced thriller, Whorl, revolves around Dave Anderson, a reluctant but gifted pistolero who possesses a physical trait that would turn the modern, science-based legal system on its head—his fingerprints are not unique. After a well-meaning FBI forensic tech discovers the anomaly, all bets are off for Dave as he finds himself hunted by government agencies and mercenaries in the name of national security.
Despite being nearly 500 pages, I devoured Whorl over a weekend and found two major characteristics that made the novel impossible to put down. For one, the plot is incredibly interesting. We are all brought up knowing that an individual’s fingerprints are unique, and so deeply held is this knowledge that we use fingerprints for identification, biometric security, and in the legal system fingerprints are held as a irrefutable piece of forensic evidence. But, with more than 7.5 billion people in the world, not to mention the countless generations that came before, isn’t it possible that somewhere, somehow, a print could be shared?
The second defining factor is this book’s authenticity. Despite being a “high thriller,” featuring three-letter agencies and government intrigue, the story is rooted on the streets of Detroit and in characters who are going about their daily lives in that deteriorating cityscape. These are people and places the author is intimately familiar with—Tarr has spent most of his life living and working in the Detroit area, and has paid the bills working as a police officer, a private investigator, and even as an armored car driver. Too, when it comes to the gun play, Tarr is masterful, and he should be, being himself a well-respected gun writer and a serious competitor—to the tune of being a USPSA Grand Master.
For firearm enthusiasts, there is a lot to like in Whorl. The descriptions of the guns and their use are accurate, and there is even some good information to be gleaned about competition shooting, good practice techniques, and key skills for personal defense. There is even a cameo appearance by famed firearm competitor and Hollywood trainer Taran Butler.
I gauge my personal enjoyment of a book by how quickly I read it, and I devoured Whorl with a voracious appetite, and, indeed, I’m still left wanting more.
Whorl by James Tarr is available from Amazon. Price: $18, paperback; $3, digital edition (Kindle).