Monday, January 22, 2007

The Blood Doctor
by Barbara Vine

Lord Martin Nanther is a hereditary peer in the House of Lords in London. The time is the mid 90's, when hereditary peerages were banned. In the backdrop, he is thus dealing with the loss of his political position. He is also married, to his second wife, Jude, a successful and beautiful publisher he desperately loves. Jude is trying to become pregnant (Nanther has an adult son from his first marriage and finds himself decidedly unenthusiastic about another child but doesn't let on to Jude), and that becomes a second storyline in this book.

Nanther (neither Martin nor Lord seem appropriate for this guy, somehow) is writing a biography about his illustrious forebear, the original Lord Nanther, who was made Baron Nanther by Queen Victoria in recognition of his services as a doctor with a specialty in hemophilia and blood to her and her family (there were a few hemophiliacs in Victoria's family). The mystery (Ms. Vine writes mysteries, remember) centers around who his ancestor really was--saintly or perverse and cruel?

Well, I made it through this one, not quite so happily as I did with The Minotaur. The Blood Doctor is approximately 200 pages too long. If she had crafted it as a short story or even novella, I think the interesting subject matter would have packed more punch and the storyline would not have lost its rhythm.

Ms. Vine goes into a bit too much detail on the biography process, and the central intrigue about the good doctor didn't grab me. In addition, the other two story lines she is juggling (the House of Lords and the pregnancy) end up getting almost as much attention, and detract from the central mystery.

I suppose I was expecting quite a lot after The Minotaur, and I found The Blood Doctor lacking. However, she is still very deft in her prose and I do believe if the book had been halved in size, it would have worked excellently.

But read it and tell me if you disagree.

Despite The Blood Doctor and because of The Minotaur, I'm not giving up on her yet, and have checked out another Vine book and two Ruth Rendell books. Reviews on those to come.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Hey Rah,
I finished The Blood Doctor a few days ago & for some reason I thought you LOVED it, so I was relieved when I re-read this & saw that you thought it was too long, too detailed & the secondary stories distracted from the main one. I also thought it was quite predictable.
I'm now reading The Minotaur (which I thought you liked less & am happy to know that you liked more, as I do as well). I'm very interested in, & drawn to the story. I think it is very well-written & a bit more mysterious than The Blood Doctor. I can't wait to see how it comes out, but I have to go to sleep now (I work tomorrow).
P.S. This is the longest blog comment I've ever made.
P.P.S. What are you reading now?