2009: 68. The Blood Doctor

“Blood is going to be its theme.  I’ve made that decision long before I shall even begin writing the book.”

The Blood Doctor, Barbara Vine

I read a review that said something like, “Vine breaks no new ground, but who cares?”  I wouldn’t go that far - I think this book has some aspects that are different from other Vines,* but I would agree that it is a damn fine read.  It is the story of Martin, Lord Nanther, who is a biographer, and somewhat sheepishly, a hereditary peer.  He enjoys his work in the House of Lords, but as a modern liberal man, he nonetheless votes for its disbandment under the Labour government.  The book tells the story of his life as he (to his own embarrassment) mourns the loss of the House of Lords, deals with his wife’s infertility problems, and researches his latest book, the story of his great-grandfather, Henry Nanther, who as physician to Queen Victoria, and an expert on hemophilia, was awarded the peerage that Martin now lives with so uncomfortably.  Martin has found a letter from a great aunt referring to a “dreadful” thing that Henry did, and his interest is piqued.  Over the course of the novel, Henry’s past slowly unfolds, and Martin’s horror increases.  

I really, really enjoy this book, and think that it’s wrongly placed in the mystery ghetto (I feel the same way about The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy), as it’s really about about families and the terrible things people can do to each other.  I’d like to push it on you all - forget that the author is known for mystery fiction.  Read it if you like stories about people and families (and have any interest in either hemophilia or the House of Lords)


* Namely, SPOILER, that there is not traditional murder in this book like in other Vines.  A terrible thing happens, but not a murder, necessarily.


Date/Place Completed: May 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Ruth Rendell Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017