THE BLOOD DETECTIVE - Dan Waddell
If you're looking for a slightly different twist to the standard police procedural theme, then THE BLOOD DETECTIVE could be worth looking at. This book is the author's first novel - a journalist, he has previously written non-fiction books, including the book connected to the BBC Series Who Do You Think You Are?. Needless to say it's not hard to work out where he got the inspiration for the idea behind THE BLOOD DETECTIVE.
When the first body is discovered in a windswept Notting Hill church the very cryptic clue isn't even obviously a clue, and it's really a bit of luck that the police team twig that there could be a genealogical reference here. It's also not immediately apparent that a recent suicide is connected until the genealogy reference starts to work it's way out. Another body and Barnes finally finds a connection from the original clue, back to a Victorian serial killer, tried and hung for his crimes in 1879.
At the heart of the police investigation team DCI Grant Foster is a tricky character - prickly, even a bit mean-spirited he's the traditional complicated copper. The reasons for the character traits are slowly revealed and it does become possible for the reader to build some empathy for the man. His sidekick DS Heather Jenkins has none of those tricky character traits - basically a relatively happy, laid back sort of a woman she just gets on with the job, but isn't above a bit of interest in Nigel Barnes. Nigel Barnes is a genealogist with a chequered background - nothing really bad, just a bit complicated and he's back working as a family tree researcher for hire when Foster and Jenkins track him down to help with the clue that sets them all on the trail of a serial killer in the current day, and a serial killer in Victorian times.
The reader is going to have to be happy to accept some slightly odd feeling procedural elements to let the story roll - but stranger things than a civilian freely investigating lots of aspects of an active (and very high profile) police investigation have been ignored in the pursuit of a good story.
That's where THE BLOOD DETECTIVE really wins, it's a really good story. It's an interesting plot device that is delivered really well. It's a clever plot device as well as genealogy, family trees, sins of the father are an area that a lot of people are really interested in. The little snippets of how a family tree can be followed back were liberally provided, but they don't overpower the point of this story. The connections between the past and the present are nicely twisty and, whilst there were some aspects that you could see coming, there were enough that weren't so obvious. The 3 central people at the heart of the investigation are also characters you can really enjoy spending time with.
It's not the best start to DCI Grant Foster's day: standing over a mutilated body in a windswept London churchyard. Although the killer has left a cryptic and brutal clue.
It is only when the clue is handed to Nigel Barnes, a specialist in compiling family trees, that the full message becomes spine-chillingly clear. For it leads Barnes back more than one hundred years - to the victim of a demented Victorian serial killer.