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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genealogy, Medicine, Political reform + Thriller!
An outstanding work. Fans of Ruth Rendell know how she is the master of superbly plotted crime stories. In her alter-ego as Barbara Vine she is equally proficient at 'why dunnit's and this one gives the added question "what was done?". Martin Nanther attempts to construct a biography of his great-frandfather Henry, which starts throwing up some, at first, unanswerable...
Published on 13 Mar 2003 by Alan Paterson

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a very challenging mystery...
I ordered this book with high expectations as I nearly like all of Barbara Vine's other works.
The start was promising especially as I've always been fascinated by genetics.
After about 10 chapters, however, I had figured out the solution. (I understood *what* the first Lord Nanther had done and *why*, I just didn't know how exactly he had organized everything.)...
Published on 31 July 2002 by B. Stecher


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a very challenging mystery..., 31 July 2002
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Hardcover)
I ordered this book with high expectations as I nearly like all of Barbara Vine's other works.
The start was promising especially as I've always been fascinated by genetics.
After about 10 chapters, however, I had figured out the solution. (I understood *what* the first Lord Nanther had done and *why*, I just didn't know how exactly he had organized everything.) I read on, because I said to myself: 'No, it can't be that simple. Barbara Vine has always kept you guessing - if not to the end, then at least to 2/3 of the novel.' But reading on confirmed my suspicions and I simply couldn't understand that Lord Nanther couldn't figure out the solution. Didn't he ever take a *really* close look at his own family tree?
Unfortunately, the main characters didn't manage to hold my interest either:
Lord Nanther IV seemed more in love with his wife's looks than with her personality. But maybe that's just how it appeared to me as I found Jude's personality incredibly tedious. We only learn about her that she's obsessed with having a baby at all costs. We never really got to know what she was like before she was consumed by that wish. I feel sorry for her, but simply couldn't manage to like her.
Lord Nanther IV is intelligent, conscientious -- and unfortunately very boring. I also found that I couldn't stand him constantly putting up a front and being dishonest about his feelings as not to hurt his wife. (I thought that it might have been a really good idea if Lord Nanther IV and his wife had been honest with another - just once.)
The only person who was interesting to me was the first Lord Nanther. Of course, he's not a sympathetic character until the birth of his second son. And since we nearly only get to know him through his great-grandson's research, he remained too distant for my taste.(It would have helped to learn more about the contents of the third notebook...)
I don't think I would have finished reading this book, if Barbara Vine wasn't one of my favourite authors and I hadn't had to stay in bed because of the flue. I'm quite disappointed as I had constantly hoped that there would be another twist - but there never was.
So it seems that my favourite books of B. Vine will remain A Dark Adapted Eye, The House of Stairs and Asta's Book followed by No Night is Too Long and The Brimstone Wedding. I will reread these books and hope that maybe her next novel will be as good as they are.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, 10 Jun 2003
By 
I. D. Miller "ian_miller6" (Solihull) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Paperback)
Being an avid reader of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine for some 20 years, I have not really been overwhelmed by her most recent work, even though I still buy every book and look forward to reading them.
This one I'm afraid continued her latest trend in my view. It did not not grip me and I found it very predictable. I continued to the end as ever, hoping for something to kick it into life, but failed.
Sorry to be negative - most of her work is outstanding.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a sad sad book!, 9 Sep 2003
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Paperback)
I have read all Barbara Vine novels and do adore them, as much as Ruth Rendell,s perfect crime books. She is one of the greatest!
Having started The Blood Doctor I checked soon on Amazon if there were any reviews of other readers and most of them gave similar impressions as I just had reading the first say 100 pages. Quite negative, I have to admit.
But, as a faithful reader of her books, I continued, sometimes just not caring about all the family ties especially late in the book when it gets so confusing in the Swiss Alps, I just read on.
All in all, I must say, had this book been by another author I read for the first time, I would not have finished it. Now, after having just done so, I am glad I continued after the difficulties at the beginning, it is quite fascinating after all.
My, very personal, female impression all in all, is: this is a very sad, sad book, sad on all levels if in the 18th and 19th century or today, I really pitied the narrator, Martin, not so much for his lost seat in the House of Lords (although he soon misses this kind of work) but for his rather unsensible egoistic wife whom he adores and loves so much. And, well Henry, the blood doctor himself, is a very tragic figure as we learn, when reading on.
For firsttime Barbara Vine readers this might be a hard start but for people who already know her work I think, The Blood Doctor is very interesting although quite different from all her other books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genealogy, Medicine, Political reform + Thriller!, 13 Mar 2003
By 
Alan Paterson (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Hardcover)
An outstanding work. Fans of Ruth Rendell know how she is the master of superbly plotted crime stories. In her alter-ego as Barbara Vine she is equally proficient at 'why dunnit's and this one gives the added question "what was done?". Martin Nanther attempts to construct a biography of his great-frandfather Henry, which starts throwing up some, at first, unanswerable questions as to his ancestor's behaviour. Simultaneously, Martin is having difficulties both with his marriage and with his current occupation as a herditary peer during the time of the parliamnetry reforms of 1999. Doesn't sound so interesting, does it? But it is. I couldn't put this book down. Get it and try for yourself.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost in the family-tree forest, 15 Jan 2003
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Hardcover)
Whenever I start a book and see its opening pages include complex multi-layered family trees I always shudder. It’s a sign that the story is going to be filled with characters whose relationships will be impossible to follow without careful and constant study of the family tree. And the plot will become inevitably entwined with the tree, a case perhaps of not being able to see the wooden plot for the family trees.
But I decided to give it a chance. After all the author, Ruth Rendell using her Barabara Vine pen name, is generally eminently readable. The story has three strands, the main one being the unravelling of the life of the main character’s Victorian ancestor who makes the study of haemophilia his life’s work. The other plot strands include the affect on the main character’s life of the House of Lords reform where he sits as a life peer (Ruth Rendell, as a Labour peer in the House of Lords, draws upon first hand experience here), along with his wife’s attempts to produce a child.
The three plot strands are brought together by a single theme, that of blood. Or rather, blood as inheritance, genetics and the handing down of privileges and characteristics through the generations.
But what of the story itself? There’s no doubt that the author can write, and write well. However she fails to make this a really compelling story. She includes far too much irrelevant detail that adds nothing to the plot. The story only really gets going in the second half of the book and even then it hardly thunders along. The ending is fairly easy to spot and there aren’t many surprises or twists – then again this isn’t Rendell, it’s her Vine alter-ego, so we shouldn’t be expecting a page-turning, plot-heavy story. Look to Robert Goddard for similar stories but with far more pace and far cleverer plots.
Nevertheless I would have liked to have seen something more compelling than this. The lack of a “message”, or even any real point, means that you’re left feeling slightly empty. It needs less trivial detail, more coherence in terms of bringing the three plot strands together, and perhaps even a thinner family tree.
If you take it on expect some heavy going, along with frequent visits to the family trees in order to keep track of who’s who and what’s going on. Not a book for Rendell fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite up to the mark, 21 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Paperback)
It's a long time since I read a Barbara Vine novel - and I can previously remember enjoying them. This one, however, didn't live up to expectations. The storyline is jam-packed full of historical intrigue which is one of my favourites for a light relaxing read, yet halfway through I felt my enthusiasm for the book waning.

For anyone thinking of reading this, be aware that there is a lot of genealogical detail, medical detail and frequent mention of names and dates that will probably have you endlessly checking the family trees at the beginning of the book, trying to sort out who fits where. This distracted me from the story. There is also a lot of information about how the House of Lords is organised, much of which went slightly over my head. It was borderline dreary for me and I wondered how relevant it was. Then there's the almost histrionic focus on babies, designer babies and hereditary diseases...

Overall, I felt that this book was too complex for a light read but doesn't quite get into the next league up - where I have Susan Howatch as a benchmark. Were the characters more developed and the huge amount of detail more deftly dealt with, then this book would have been a much better read for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Multiple story lines confidently woven together, 11 Jun 2006
By 
H. Ashford "hashford" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Paperback)
I have only recently started to read the books of Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) and when I picked The Blood Doctor up I was expecting a psychological thriller. And what a pleasant surprise I got - this book was even better!

The Blood Doctor tells the story of Martin Nanther's attempt to write a biography of his great-great-grandfather, Henry Nanther. We join with Martin in his attempts to unpick Henry's story through direct research and interviews with members of his extended family. Interwoven with Henry's story are other minor themes involving Martin's sadness over the loss of his hereditary seat in the House of Lords, and his and his wife's attempts to have a baby.

The story-telling is wonderfully done, with the different story strands weaving effortlessly together. There are many fascinating and brilliantly drawn minor characters, ranging through the colourful fellow peer, the domineering Aunt, the stroppy and arrogant son, etc.

The pace is slow (this is not a thriller), and the reader continually needs to refer back to the family trees printed at the front of the book to see who is who, but I enjoyed the gradual unravelling of the mystery concealed in Henry's life. If I have a criticism at all it is that Martin Nanther is just too nice; too considerate of his wife's needs, even when they are in conflict with his own, too aware of his own weaknesses and too willing to try to compensate for them - why don't I meet men like him???.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Barbara Vine - The Blood Doctor, 28 April 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Hardcover)
To me the name Barbara Vine equals excellent novels, so I was disappointed with this book. I spent a lot of reading time flicking back to study the family trees, and in the end didn't finish the book, something unheard of for me.
However, I found the chapters dealing with the narrator's marriage and also his professional life in the House of Lords very interesting and a thoroughly good read. In fact I groaned whenever I had to return to the convoluted and complex family trees. Not one of Barbara Vine's best.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as her earlier works..., 17 Jun 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Hardcover)
The Blood Doctor is a complex, fascinating novel. The narrator, Martin Nanther, is dealing with losing his position in the House of Lords, writing his great grandfather Henry's autobiography, and trying to share in his wife's pain that she has been unable to carry a child to term. The metaphor of blood is interwoven throughout--does it give life or bring death? As Martin's great grandfather once said, "What is the answer? That is the question." Barbara Vine skillfully weaves both Martin and Henry's multifaceted lives. Not all authors can switch between the present and the past and make them both equally interesting. This story is less of your standard mystery than a look into the lives of two men who are brought to grief by blood. This book is as strong as A Dark Adapted Eye and/or Anna's Book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A serious "paper mystery" and historical recreation., 21 Feb 2005
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Blood Doctor (Paperback)
Queen Victoria, her family, and her genetic contribution to the scourge of hemophilia in ruling families throughout Europe, all figure in this fascinating medical mystery. Dr. Henry Nanther, Physician In-Ordinary to Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria's beloved hemophiliac son, tells through letters, diary entries, and his personal "alternative history" the story of his research into hemophilia and how it is transmitted. Martin Nanther, the 4th Lord Nanther, who inherited his peerage from his great-grandfather Henry, is the desk-bound modern detective in this tale, researching Henry's life for a biography he intends to write about his contributions to history and medicine. The agony of the hemophiliac during the Victorian era, when little help could be offered the sufferer, is finely drawn.
Though most of the action takes place "off stage," Vine's characterizations are fully drawn and Martin's quest is intriguing,making the reader feel like part of the action, even the action of 100 years ago. Students of genealogy will be fascinated as Martin follows a genealogical paper trail through many generations of Nanthers and the Hendersons, his forbears on his mother's side of the family.
The serious, intellectual tone and Vine's careful attention to detail, particularly as it reveals the psychology and motivation of her characters, elevate this a serious novel and give the reader much to contemplate. Ironically, Henry's personality is so carefully delineated that many readers may figure out, on the basis of Vine's information, Henry's secret history, well before the conclusion.
With its insights into the Victorian period, the clear discussions of genetics, the contemporary insights into British reforms of the House of Lords, the personal and medical mysteries at the heart of the story, and the urgency of Henry's and Martin's quests, Vine's novel is an unusual and fascinating entertainment. Mary Whipple
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