The Blood Doctor

by Barbara Vine

What do we mean when we talk about blood? It encompasses lineage
and genetics, character and destiny, science and mystery. THE BLOOD
DOCTOR manages to touch on everything blood entails as Martin
Nanther conducts biographical research into the life of his
great-grandfather, Henry Nanther, favored physician of Queen
Victoria and an early expert in hemophilia.

Hemophilia is a hereditary blood-clotting disorder and its victims
rarely lived to adulthood in the Victorian period, bleeding to
death as a result of minor injuries that a healthy person would
hardly notice.

Dr. Henry Nanther was a chilly man of secrets, and Lord Martin
faces many disquieting questions. Did Dr. Nanther murder his
fiancée? What was behind his callous attitude toward the women
in his life? Why did he suddenly stop work on his hemophilia magnum
opus, which might have fulfilled his fondest dreams of scientific
success? Lastly, what happened to Dr. Nanther's youngest son, his
favorite, who died so tragically young?

The concept of inevitability plays an important part in THE BLOOD
DOCTOR. Is it possible to change our fates, to rebel against what's
in our blood? Dr. Nanther certainly thought so. "Control
circumstances. Do not allow them to control you," was one of his
better-known sayings, and the reader discovers just how firmly he
believed his own words.

Over the course of his research, Lord Martin simultaneously faces
other blood-related questions. He is a hereditary peer in the
British Parliament's House of Lords due to Dr. Nanther's knighthood
and he must weigh the value of an inherited title --- of power
transferred through the blood --- as the House votes to reduce the
number of its hereditary seats. Also, Lord Martin's wife has
miscarried several times and her desperate attempts to successfully
carry a baby to term illustrate the many genetic surprises we all
carry unknowingly in our blood.

The reader will be very grateful for the genealogical charts
provided in the front of the book. There are four populous
generations of Nanthers to keep track of, and the family trees make
that task much easier. Of all the characters, Lord Martin comes
across as the blandest, an unlikely descendant of his powerful,
enigmatic ancestor.

Barbara Vine (AKA Dame Ruth Rendell) has a number of books to her
credit and a fervent fan base around the world. She is known for
her works of psychological suspense, and THE BLOOD DOCTOR, with its
complex and well-constructed theme, is a worthy addition to her
body of work.

Reviewed by Colleen Quinn ( on January 21, 2011

The Blood Doctor
by Barbara Vine

  • Publication Date: July 2, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Psychological Suspense
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books
  • ISBN-10: 1400045045
  • ISBN-13: 9781400045044