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The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell

The Blood Detective (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Dan Waddell

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2042257,485 (3.66)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 (2008)



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I really enjoy genealogical stories so I thought The Blood Detective might be right up my street and I was correct. In this book we have genealogist, Nigel Barnes, working with the police to try and solve a series of murders. He's a bit of a loveable geek really - I think one of the police officers, Heather Jenkins, describes him as a walking anachronism. He's still using a record player, wears tweed jackets and doesn't like any music from after the year he was born. I thought he was a great character with lots of potential to take further.

This is an exciting and fast paced read as we follow DCI Grant Foster and his team in their desperate race to link the past to the present. I love books where facts are uncovered and I enjoyed reading about Nigel racing around between the Family Records Office, libraries and newspaper archives, and sites in London that are relevant to the story. It was all so exciting (perhaps I'm just a bit of a geek too!).

It's quite obvious that Dan Waddell knows a lot about genealogy. There's a huge amount of detail and information. I was fascinated by some of the surnames mentioned, for instance, and the explanations as to how they came about. But make no mistake, this is not a book which is just about listing facts. It's a page turner of a crime novel, a chase right up to the end to find a murderer.

This is no cosy crime sort of book. It's actually quite gruesome, much more than I expected, but I thought it was very well done. I loved how the present day murders were linked to something that happened over a hundred years earlier. The two strands come together brilliantly to make this a fantastic read. I already have Blood Atonement, the second in this series, and I'm sure I will like it just as much. ( )
  nicx27 | May 1, 2017 |
I raced through this book, a hybrid mixture of crime and genealogy mystery. Author Dan Waddell is also a journalist and genealogist, having written ‘The Genealogy Handbook’ to accompany the ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ television series. So, he knows his stuff and it shows. Usually a crime novel features a lead detective and team, here we have two lead characters: Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster, and genealogist Nigel Barnes.
Waddell’s plotting is ingenious. The past really does come back to haunt the present. There is a serial killer in West London who leaves a clue carved into the skin of his victims. This clue prompts DCI Foster to call on the specialist help of researcher Barnes. The murder hunt takes parallel paths: Foster chases living suspects, Barnes searches the archives for the true 1879 story of a serial killer, his victims and their descendants. What is the link? The final chapters are a thrilling race against time.
I really enjoyed this. The linking of historical and present-day crime was clever, and the characterization was convincing and not of the stereotypical detective form. An enjoyable mixture of fast-moving crime novel with genealogical research and historical gems about this particular part of London, its transformation from Victorian times to the 21st century, and its dark history of crime. There is a second novel featuring the same characters, ‘Blood Atonement’.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | May 29, 2016 |
I was skeptical - how could family history and a police procedural be combined? It was done very well. And I enjoyed it. ( )
  stevebishop | Apr 2, 2016 |
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 |
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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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