Nancy Oakes's Reviews > The Blood Doctor

The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine
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's review
Jan 21, 09

bookshelves: crime-fiction, crime-fiction-uk
Read in March, 2004

The Blood Doctor is an absolutely fine mystery, but it's not her best work. That distinction goes to (imho) A Dark-Adapted Eye, probably one of the best mysteries ever written and certainly the favorite of my British Mystery collection. I enjoy settling down with a novel by this author and watching all the secrets unfold within its covers. I thought this one was really good, as well, but I kind of figured out the basic secret some time into the book. Luckily while I had the "whys" figured out, I didn't understand the "how." Usually if I get the solution early on I never read that author again, because obviously, it's not challenging enough. But I digress.

Martin Nanther is the 4th Lord Nanther, and is currently working on a biography of his great-grandfather, Henry Alexander Nanther, the 1st Lord Nanther. Henry came by his title by way of serving as one of the personal physicians to Queen Victoria & her children; mainly because he was becoming quite well known as an expert in the field of hemophilia, a disease which Queen Victoria passed to her children. Well, at least to her son; some of her daughters became carriers of the disease.


Martin has several notebooks written by Henry along with other documents & letters as source material. He also has a cousin who is currently working up his own family's geneaology, complete with family tree with references Martin can use. Then there are the cousins, children or grandchildren of Henry's 4 daughters, who all, in their own way, help Martin with his task. However, Martin begins to uncover things that reveal that there was something not exactly kosher about Henry. As he finds out more, Martin feels drawn to get to the root of the several mysteries involving his great-grandfather.

The author does such a good job with Martin's search for family history; I love the way she slowly unwinds layer and after layer of Henry's story until she gets to the very core. But that is Vine's strength in story telling and she is at the top of her game here. I also enjoyed the look at the Victorian period. What bothered me about this book is the long, drawn-out descriptions of what it's like to be a member of the House of Lords...down to the pegs on the walls with the names over them, the color of the carpet in the Prince's chamber, what they eat in the dining room, etc etc etc ad nauseum. I read a brief interview with the author who is herself a Peer; perhaps this is why we had to go through all of this. In her other books, she locks you right into the mystery and doesn't allow you to become a) bogged down in details or b) sidetracked to the point where you're skimming.

All in all, it's a VERY interesting few hours of reading with a mystery that you'll find yourself wanting to get to the root of just to satisfy your own curiousity & ease the suspense you're starting to feel. I recommend it to those who like British Mysteries or to fans of Vine's other books.
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