Thursday, September 8, 2011
The Blood Detective: Review
The Blood Detective is a nice, solid fiction debut by British journalist, Dan Waddell. In this police procedural a man's naked body is found mutilated and stabbed to death in a London church yard. It's not until the autopsy that Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster sees that the part of the mutilation on the man's chest is a notation of some sort: 1A137. In a brainstorming session, Foster's assistant DS Heather Jenkins suggests that it might be the reference number for a marriage, birth or death certificate. So the Yard recruits genealogist Nigel Barnes to help them to track down the reference. His researches lead them to the death certificate of Albert Beck. Beck was murdered in 1879--stabbed to death and left in a church yard on the same date as the modern crime. It becomes a race against time as the current death rate mounts--each victim mutilated a bit differently but marked with the same notation. Will Nigel's researches help Foster discover the culprit before time runs out?
This had a bit of a slow start for me and it took me a while to warm up to the character of Grant Foster. Generally speaking, I tend to like my detective protagonists. Foster came to life for me once he began interacting more and more with Nigel Barnes. From that point Waddell's shrewd characterization and pacing made for an exciting start to a new series. The mystery itself is fairly intricate and the murders bizarre enough to hold the reader's interest. I started this yesterday after dinner and read straight through to the end. I could not put it down until I found out what happened.
I particularly enjoyed how Waddell weaves the genealogical researches into the story. I've read a few genealogy-based mysteries where it just really didn't work well. The researches weren't necessary--the information could have just as easily been told by relatives passing on family lore. The Blood Detective uses Barnes to full advantage and he is a likable character. I will be looking for the sequel. Three and three-quarters stars--nearly a full four.