The Blood Doctor

The Blood Doctor

4.0 3
by Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell
     
 

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Sometimes it’s best to leave the past alone. For when biographer Martin Nanther looks into the life of his famous great-grandfather Henry, Queen Victoria’s favorite physician, he discovers some rather unsettling coincidences, like the fact that the doctor married the sister of his recently murdered fiancée. The more Martin researches his distant

Overview

Sometimes it’s best to leave the past alone. For when biographer Martin Nanther looks into the life of his famous great-grandfather Henry, Queen Victoria’s favorite physician, he discovers some rather unsettling coincidences, like the fact that the doctor married the sister of his recently murdered fiancée. The more Martin researches his distant relative, the more fascinated—and horrified—he becomes. Why did people have a habit of dying around his great grandfather? And what did his late daughter mean when she wrote that he’s done “monstrous, quite appalling things”?

Barbara Vine (a.k.a. Ruth Rendell) deftly weaves this story of an eminent Victorian with a modern yarn about the embattled biographer, who is watching the House of Lords prepare to annul membership for hereditary peers and thus strip him of his position. Themes of fate and family snake throughout this teasing psychological suspense, a typically chilling tale from a master of the genre.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This rich, labyrinthine book by Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) concerns a "mystery in history," like her 1998 novel, The Chimney Sweeper's Boy. Martin Nanther-biographer and member of the House of Lords-discovers some blighted roots on his family tree while researching the life of his great-great-grandfather, Henry, an expert on hemophilia and physician to Queen Victoria. Martin contacts long-lost relatives who help him uncover some puzzling events in Henry's life. Was Henry a dour workaholic or something much more sinister? Vine can make century-old tragedy come alive. Still, the decades lapsed between Martin's and Henry's circles create added emotional distance, and, because they are all at least 50 years dead, we never meet Henry or his cohorts except through diaries and letters. Martin's own life-his wife's infertility and troubles with a son from his first marriage-is interesting yet sometimes intrudes on the more intriguing Victorian saga. Vine uses her own experience as a peer to give readers an insider's look into the House of Lords, at the dukes snoozing in the library between votes and eating strawberries on the terrace fronting the Thames. Some minor characters are especially vivid, like Martin's elderly cousin Veronica, who belts back gin while stonewalling about the family skeletons all but dancing through her living room. Readers may guess Henry's game before Vine is ready to reveal it, but this doesn't detract from this novel peopled by characters at once repellant and compelling. (July 9) FYI: Vine's most recent novel as Ruth Rendell is Adam and Eve and Pinch Me (Forecasts, Jan. 28).
Library Journal
In her tenth novel writing as Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell offers a novel of suspense based in 19th-century England and centering on deceit, murder, and various other family skeletons. Martin Nanther, the fourth Lord Nanther, has a comfortable life in present-day London as a Hereditary Peer in the House of Lords and as a historical biographer. He chooses as his most recent subject his own great-grandfather, the first Lord Nanther, physician to the royal family (Victoria and Albert) and an early noted researcher into the cause and transmission of hemophilia. The reader is taken through the family history as Martin painstakingly uncovers some not so savory bits of his own family's past. The story is dense with characters, and the author provides family trees of the two principal families, for which any reader will be eternally grateful. The story lacks the usual page-turner suspense of the Rendell/Vine novels but makes up for that with unusually detailed glimpses into Victorian life and the inner workings of the House of Parliament, which American readers will find particularly intriguing. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/02.] Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland, OR Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Biographer Martin Nanther turns detective when he attempts a life of the great-grandfather who earned the family its peerage and its curse-in Ruth Rendell's tenth suspenser under the Vine byline (Grasshopper, 2000, etc.), a meticulous tale that moves with the balefully majestic force of a submerged iceberg. Intrigued by a letter in which his subject's youngest daughter claimed half a century after his death that "Henry Nanther did . . . monstrous, quite appalling things," Martin soon finds that Henry's life is shrouded in mystery and fatality. One of Queen Victoria's physicians, an expert on hemophilia, he seemed the pillar of rectitude even before he took his seat in the House of Lords in 1896. Yet the death of his medical-school friend Richard Fox Hamilton in a celebrated train wreck seems to have killed Henry's humanity. He kept Jemima ("Jimmy") Ashworth as a mistress for eight years, discarding both her and beautiful, wealthy aristocrat Olivia Batho when he became engaged to Eleanor Henderson, then reacting to Eleanor's murder by marrying her sister Edith. Why didn't Henry propose to the incomparably eligible Olivia, and why was he in such haste to marry his fiancee's sister? As Martin patiently traces the story of Henry and his family through letters, diaries, travels, and interviews, his descent into the well of the past unearths unnerving parallels between Henry's story and his own. Married to a younger woman desperate for her own children but prone to miscarriages, watching the House of Lords prepare to annul membership for hereditary peers and so turn him out to pasture, he finds no refuge from his present sorrows in researching the life of an ancestor who turns out to be bothpitiable and truly monstrous, the architect of a crime that has outlived him for generations. A dense, dazzling exploration of the biographer as detective, and of the truism that blood will tell.
From the Publisher
"One of the finest practitioners of her craft in the English-speaking world…. [The Blood Doctor is] densely plotted, psychologically twisted." -The New York Times Book Review

"Combine[s] Edith Wharton's laserlike psychological and sociological notations with the elegance and intelligence Arthur Conan Doyle brought to genre writing…. [She is] the best mystery writer of our time." – The Boston Globe

“Vine is the subtlest of writers, and her book’s quiet demeanor simply adds more nuance to its exquisite creepiness.” –Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"One of the finest practitioners of her craft in the English-speaking world…. [The Blood Doctor is] densely plotted, psychologically twisted." -The New York Times Book Review

“This latest book is her best... suspenseful and intellectually engaging.” –Chicago Tribune

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307428189
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/18/2007
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
1,056,173
File size:
668 KB

Meet the Author

The author of numerous novels, including A Dark-Adapted Eye, Anna’s Book, and Grasshopper, Barbara Vine is a pen name of Ruth Rendell. Rendell has won many awards, including three Edgars and four Gold Daggers. She lives in London, England.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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The Blood Doctor 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When a female author writes in the first person as a man, she deserves some credit, but when she writes so well that you feel you are that man, she deserves a 5-star rating. Wow! This book is loaded with facts and details about genealogy, British Parliament and medical abnormalities while being embroiled with mystery as well. This is my favorite Barbara Vine books, for many reasons. It was very interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ruth Rendell seems able to write from practically Any point of view and do it well, just one of her many strengths as a writer. I learned so much from this book and enjoyed it greatly
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Helped put me to sleep every night