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The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell

The Blood Detective (edition 2008)

by Dan Waddell

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1811965,444 (3.65)30
Title:The Blood Detective
Authors:Dan Waddell
Info:Penguin (2008), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Genealogy, History, Fiction

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The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell



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There's a nice little subgenre in crime fiction that's all about genealogy and how crimes committed in the past have a way of causing even more grief in the present. As main character Nigel Barnes says, "Anyone who seeks to forget the past has a corpse in the basement," and that's exactly what's happened in The Blood Detective. A crime was committed in the past and swiftly forgotten by almost everyone. Notice I said "almost."

Waddell has an excellent cast to solve this mystery. Nigel is young, intelligent, and passionate about family history-- well, all history for that matter. He's not without his own skeleton in the closet, and as soon as I knew what it was, I was watching carefully to see how he deals with it. I'll leave that for you to discover for yourselves. His two police colleagues are interesting in their own ways. Heather Jenkins is the likable one of the pair, and although I really didn't care much for Grant Foster (I keep hearing that line from an old commercial, "Who's behind those Foster Grants?"), I certainly appreciated his character being fleshed out more by book's end.

The story in The Blood Detective is a bit like that snowball going downhill, gaining size and momentum till the powerful crash at the end. I enjoyed the journey, possibly because there are no clues to be found in the present. Barnes has to spend a lot of time in newspaper archives and records offices to piece everything together, and watching how he does it is fascinating. History and genealogy really do solve this crime. And Barnes' habit of tossing out name origins as he goes along? Pay attention. (Just a word to the wise. Besides, they're fun.)

I almost added this book to my Best Reads of 2015 list except for one thing, and it's something that doesn't happen to me very often. One scene toward the end was over-the-top with the pain and gore quotient. It had me tied up in a Gordian knot of quivering sympathy pain. I think of it as the "Annie Wilkes on steroids" scene. Be that as it may, I really enjoyed this book. Dan Waddell has joined fellow Englishman Steve Robinson in crafting mysteries steeped in family history that I just don't want to put down. I'm looking forward to meeting Nigel Barnes again-- soon! ( )
  cathyskye | Aug 20, 2015 |
As dawn breaks over London, the body of a young man is discovered in a windswept Notting Hill churchyard. The killer has left Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and his team a grisly, cryptic clue...However, it's not until the clue is handed to Nigel Barnes, a specialist in compiling family trees, that the full message becomes spine-chillingly clear. For, it leads Barnes back more than one hundred years - to the victim of a demented Victorian serial killer...When a second body is discovered Foster needs Barnes's skills more than ever. Because the murderer's clues appear to run along the tangled bloodlines that lie between 1879 and now. And if Barnes is right about his blood-history, the killing spree has only just begun...From the author of the bestselling "Who Do You Think You Are?" comes a haunting crime novel of blood-stained family histories and gruesome secrets...

Hmmm....I like the idea of combining genealogy, local history and crime but this didn't really work for me. The reason behind the murders was too far fetched, the ending too clichéd and the constant reference to roads in London annoyed me (petty I know). Saying that one of my family history colleague’s loves it .... However the writing was good and the book was nicely plotted and it did hold my attention. ( )
  jan.fleming | Feb 9, 2015 |
summer-2013, debut, tbr-busting-2013
Read in August, 2013

The Blood Detective (Nigel Barnes #1)

pub 2007
myst> audio> rosado
summer 2013> tbr busting 2013
brit> eng> london> labroke grove
first in series AND debut novel

Copycat killings of victorian crimes. Interesting geneological murder mystery. This series has great potential
  mimal | Aug 26, 2013 |
Although a tad slow starting, this is a fascinating book weaving two sets of murders, one from 1879 and one from today, together into one fascinating mystery. The premise is that a set of murders in 1879 are being "mimiced" in 2008, with a twist. The other part of the book that is fascinating is that the police are using a genealogist to solve the murder. He is doing the research on the 1879 murders for them, trying to figure out how the two are tied together. The next book in the series isn't scheduled for release until summer 2009, and I can't wait. ( )
  bookswoman | Mar 31, 2013 |
Among the mutilations found on body in London is an alpha-numeric sequence scratched into the person’s chest. One of the police assigned to the case, Heather Jenkins, recognises it as a reference to a birth, death or marriage certificate and suggests the police contact family historian Nigel Barnes for help. As more bodies are found with the same reference number carved into their skin Barnes helps the police to identify the relationship of the current crop of crimes to ones that took place over 100 years earlier.

I enjoyed the way this story developed up to a certain point, especially the incorporation of the relationship between the historical elements and the current crime. The depiction of Barnes’ research was accurate for the circumstances (having worked as an archivist in similar institutions to those depicted here for a number of years I feel qualified to comment) and the linking of his discoveries to historic parts of London was well done. I have to say though that I groaned audibly at a specific twist incorporated towards the end of the novel. To say more would give away a rather massive plot point but it’s a very well-worn cliché in crime fiction and was neither necessary to build tension nor particularly credible in this instance. This did spoil the ending a little for me but as the rest of the story was engaging and well-written I’ll be forgiving of a debut novelist’s eagerness to pack in the tension.

Nigel Barnes is in an interesting, likable character with some personal history of his own that is revealed over the course of the novel. His love/hate relationship with genealogy made me laugh at its realism (it was the genealogists who made me flee from archival institutions) though I enjoyed his passion for pure historical research. The DCI in charge of the case, Grant Foster, is probably less likable to most people though I found his cynicism and world-weariness understandable and at times downright lovable but I admit I’m a bit odd that way.

Police procedurals are not exactly a rare thing in crime fiction so it is not surprising that authors are always looking for a new spin on the theme and I found this one more engaging than many such twists. I’m not sure how it will play out across a long running series though if the author is prepared to consider mysteries without murders there might be a reasonable scope for a decent bunch of stories and I enjoyed the pace, humour and history of this one well enough to be keen to track down the second book in the series. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
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This is the French version of the Blood Detective
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312378904, Hardcover)

When the naked, mutilated body of a man is found in a Notting Hill graveyard and the police investigation led by Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and his colleague Detective Superintendent Heather Jenkins yields few results, a closer look at the corpse reveals  that what looked at first glance like superficial knife wounds on the victim’s chest is actually a string of carved letters and numbers, an index number referring to a file in city archives containing birth and death certificates and marriage licenses. Family historian Nigel Barnes is put on the case. As one after another victim is found in various locations all over London, each with a different mutilation but the same index number carved into their skin, Barnes and the police work frantically to figure out how the corresponding files are connected. With no clues to be found in the present, Barnes must now search the archives of the past to solve the mystery behind a string of 100-year-old murders. Only then will it be possible to stop the present series of gruesome killings, but will they be able to do so before the killer ensnares his next victim? Barnes, Foster, and Jenkins enter a race against time – and before the end of the investigation, one of them will get much too close for comfort.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:02 -0400)

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"When the naked, mutilated body of a man is found in a Notting Hill graveyard and the police investigation led by Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and his colleague Detective Superintendent Heather Jenkins yields few results, a closer look at the corpse reveals that what looked at first glance like superficial knife wounds on the victim's chest is actually a string of carved letters and numbers, an index number referring to a file in city archives containing birth and death certificates and marriage licenses. Family historian Nigel Barnes is put on the case."… (more)

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