4 November 2010
Review: THE BLOOD DETECTIVE, Dan Waddell
Source: borrowed from my library
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.
THE BLOOD DETECTIVE was Dan Waddell's debut crime fiction novel although he is an established non-fiction writer. I found it an interesting and engaging read that moved at a good solid pace. A genealogist is an unusual person to be part of a detective trio, particularly when the other two are police officers.
The story line appealed to that part of my psyche that likes history. In the main we follow genealogist Nigel Barnes as he works out the links between the past and the present. Both he and the police are working against a 100 year old time line, tracking incidents in a London whose topography has changed greatly in a century that has seen the growth of the Underground, the bombing in World War II, and the demolition of old houses for the building of motorways and high rise housing.
I thought that in particular, for a debut novel, THE BLOOD DETECTIVE, was written with great assurance. On the cover Reginald Hill recommends the novel with "Elegant writing, engaging characters, a cracking climax", and he's right. Recommendations on the back cover from Val McDermid and Kate Moss comment on what an original and intriguing story this is. Again they are right.
Never mind that I had worked out what the climax was about 30 pages before it happened. It was still a great read.
My rating: 4.5
Like Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, I read this for our face to face discussion group on the coming weekend.
THE BLOOD DETECTIVE was nominated for Macavity Awards First Novel nominee (2009).
It was also shortlisted for the 2009 CWA New Blood Dagger.
My library has the sequel, BLOOD ATONEMENT, that apparently sees a continuation of the partnership. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it.
Dan Waddell has a website
There is a pdf extract of THE BLOOD DETECTIVE here, or else you can read the same extract on Amazon, where it is also available for Kindle.