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The Blood Detective (Nigel Barnes) Hardcover – June 10, 2008

17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In British journalist Waddell's solid fiction debut, a police procedural, Scotland Yard recruits genealogist Nigel Barnes to assist in solving a grisly series of murders in London. The victims vary in gender, age and means of death, but the corpses are all marked with 1A137. Barnes determines that the number refers to the death certificate of Albert Beck, an 1879 murder victim who was stabbed to death in a churchyard on the same date as one of the modern victims. Digging deeper, Barnes discovers that Beck was one of five victims attributed to the so-called Kensington Killer and that Eke Fairbairn was tried and executed for the crimes. Evidence suggests that Fairbairn was wrongfully convicted and that a distant descendant is taking revenge on the relatives of those involved in the 19th-century prosecution. Waddell's adept characterization and pacing make for an exciting start to a new series, though some readers may find the coincidence at the denouement too improbable. (June)
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From Booklist

In a London cemetery, a man’s body is found. During the autopsy, the police discover the body has been marked with a string of letters and numbers that appears to be the code for a particular file in the Family Records Centre. To locate the file and unearth its relevance to the murder, police engage the services of Nigel Barnes, a professional genealogist. So begins the first installment of what one hopes will be a series featuring Barnes, a wily and likable amateur sleuth. This is journalist Waddell’s first novel, but it reads like it was written by a seasoned pro, sharply plotted and populated by three-dimensional people. The story is intricate, and readers will appreciate the care Waddell takes to incorporate Barnes’ profession into the mystery. The genealogist-sleuth is a relatively unmined vein in mystery fiction, and Waddell’s hero is a bit edgier than Rhett McPherson’s Torie O’Shea and Fiona Mountain’s Natasha Blake, who appeal primarily to cozy fans. Let’s hope Waddell can find many more genealogical excuses for Barnes to assist the police with their inquiries. --David Pitt

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Product Details

  • Series: Nigel Barnes
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (June 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312378904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312378905
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,810,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By nessa on October 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Genealogist Nigel Barnes teams up with a couple cops in order to solve a string of serial killings in modern day London. Oddly, Nigel's genealogical research is much more interesting--and convincing--than the work done by law enforcement. The author seems iffy on actual police procedures, but quite knowledgeable on the secrets of tracing one's past.

The writing in this book is generally rich and well-crafted, carrying it through some rather serious plot holes. Why, for example, doesn't the London Police Force hire more than just one genealogist to help them when the clock is ticking until the next murder? Although the book is engrossing, the ultimate unveiling of the killer is not terribly satisfying. I will probably check out the sequel to see if its ending packs a bigger punch, and if Waddell eases up on the long, rambling historical details which somewhat slow the pace of The Blood Detective.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Susie on November 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm an avid fan of police procedural series, mostly Nordic and Euro.

Waddell's Blood Detective is a great introduction to a new series.

The story is set in England. There are three main characters, all well defined, and special in their own ways.

I especially like Nigel Barnes, a genealogist. The murder investigation is mostly done by Barnes' research through birth, marriage and death certificates.

The story is well written, perfectly paced from the first to the last page with no wasted words.

I ordered the second book, BLOOD ATONEMENT, a Nigel Barnes mystery novel immediately after I finished BLOOD DETECTIVE.
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Format: Hardcover
There's a nice little subgenre in crime fiction that's all about genealogy and how crimes committed in the past have a way of causing even more grief in the present. As main character Nigel Barnes says, "Anyone who seeks to forget the past has a corpse in the basement," and that's exactly what's happened in The Blood Detective. A crime was committed in the past and swiftly forgotten by almost everyone. Notice I said "almost."

Waddell has an excellent cast to solve this mystery. Nigel is young, intelligent, and passionate about family history-- well, all history for that matter. He's not without his own skeleton in the closet, and as soon as I knew what it was, I was watching carefully to see how he deals with it. I'll leave that for you to discover for yourselves. His two police colleagues are interesting in their own ways. Heather Jenkins is the likable one of the pair, and although I really didn't care much for Grant Foster (I keep hearing that line from an old commercial, "Who's behind those Foster Grants?"), I certainly appreciated his character being fleshed out more by book's end.

The story in The Blood Detective is a bit like that snowball going downhill, gaining size and momentum till the powerful crash at the end. I enjoyed the journey, possibly because there are no clues to be found in the present. Barnes has to spend a lot of time in newspaper archives and records offices to piece everything together, and watching how he does it is fascinating. History and genealogy really do solve this crime. And Barnes' habit of tossing out name origins as he goes along? Pay attention. (Just a word to the wise. Besides, they're fun.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christina Lockstein on March 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell is the first book in a new mystery series starring London genealogist Nigel Barnes. Barnes has recently returned to his work as a family history researcher after an unsuccessful attempt to become a university professor. He's frustrated at the lack of work within the occupation until hired by police detective Grant Foster and his partner Heather Jenkins to discover the meaning behind a code carved into the body of a murdered body found in a churchyard. The code refers to a record at the Family Records Centre which Barnes discovers traces back to a murderer known as the Kensington Killer who stabbed five men to death in 1879. As Foster, Jenkins, and Barnes investigate the 1879 case, they quickly discover that the current victims are tied to that century old case. Who would have thought that Waddell could take the dusty hobby of genealogy and turned it into an exciting and completely thrilling murder mystery. He uses the past to good effect as each person associated with the case has a secret in their own history. The writing is gritty, believable, and thoroughly compelling. Waddell gets extra points from me for laying out the clues for readers so I knew the motive and murderer before the main characters. I will definitely be following up on this series.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on June 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Scotland Yard hires genealogist Nigel Barnes as a consultant to their investigation into ghastly serial killings haunting London. The only link between the victims besides a gruesome death is each corpse is marked with "1A137".

Barnes follows up on the death number and soon realizes it is the number on the death certificate filed in 1879 for murder victim Albert Beck, who was stabbed to death in a churchyard. As he widens his historical search, he learns that Beck was one of the five victims allegedly murdered by the Kensington Killer; Eke Fairbairn was arrested as such, tried and executed. Further evidence seems to imply Eke was innocent and an apparent descendant is avenging his undeserved execution by executing relatives of the prosecution.

Although the climax seems implausible, readers will relish this strong police procedural with a fascinating lead character, who uses genealogy to uncover nineteenth century clues to a present day serial killer. The story line is fast-paced, but held together by Nigel as he begins to piece together the puzzle. He will remind the audience somewhat of Rhett McPherson's Missouri genealogist Torie O'Shea. Fans will enjoy this fine English whodunit while looking forward to more such cases starring Nigel.

Harriet Klausner
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