The Blood Doctor

Narrated by: Robert Powell
Length: 15 hrs and 23 mins
4 out of 5 stars (78 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The First Lord Nanther, expert in blood diseases, particularly the royal disease of Heamophilia, and favoured physician to Queen Victoria, clearly hoped to be the subject of an admiring posthumous biography. But when his great-grandson, Martin Nanther begins to research his life for a biography, the Martin comes to suspect that his great-grandfather’s old records conceal more than they reveal. Henry had been obsessed with blood, to him, blood was a thing of beauty and he could not fathom how anyone could flinch or faint at the sight of it. As Martin’s research deepens, he begins to wonder whether the mysterious deaths of a number of friends and relatives of his great-grandfather really were mere coincidence or did Henry’s fascination with blood have a much darker side?

©2002 Kingsmarkham Enterprises Ltd (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Blood Doctor

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

clever, excellent storytelling

I didn't know what to expect from Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine (except good writing) and feared that this was some kind of gothic horror - but it is an absorbing character-driven story, with a mystery element very secondary. In fact, it's more of a puzzle than a mystery, pieced together in the course of the slowly moving narrative, with storylines nesting inside one another like Russian dolls.

Its tone reminded me a bit of French Lieutenant's Woman: Though not set in Victorian England, it evokes and reflects on that period in a similar way as the main character undertakes a biography of an ancestor. The story of writing the Victorian biography is so convincing that at times I forgot I was listening to fiction.

As another reviewer pointed out, there are serious editing glitches at around hour 5 and 5:45 of part 1 - annoying, but they don't ruin the listen. This is a slow listen - but that can be good - in fact, to me it's the best novel I've heard this past year (out of approximately 30-40).

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

I love the way her mind works

This is one of my favorite Barbara Vine novels, the other being THE MINOTAUR. This is a very good reader, which makes it a good story well-told in every way.

7 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

So so so so so mind numbingly boring

I've read a lot of Barbara Vine and I love her writing, so I was excited to start this novel. It goes on forever and nothing really ever happens. I don't understand what happened here, but if you are expecting an interesting psychological thriller, avoid this title at all costs. Nothing to see here. Hemophilia, the subject of the main characters agonizingly obsessive study, gets the blood drained out of it. The narrator is perfect for this piece of emotional vampiry, droning on and on as if everything he has to say is dead interesting. Seriously dull.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Central conceit doesn't work

What did you like best about The Blood Doctor? What did you like least?

Because the story is told by a British lord, this doesn't have the strangeness of other Barbara Vine novels. Any delicious weirdness of character, which I so enjoy in other novels Ruth Rendell writes as B.V, is not conveyed by the narrow perspective of the proper upper-class narrator. The biggest disappointment for me, though, was that the motive of the great doctor who is the narrator's ancestor, a motive easily guessed at towards the end and eventually spelled out, is not convincing. And, as another reviewer says, the subplot about the lord's trophy wife's efforts to have a baby soon becomes tiresome. It's meant to, I guess.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

The motive of the central figure in the family saga is not fully explained.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Sure.

Any additional comments?

If you're not a fan of Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford, try the altogether different genre of her alter ego Barbara Vine's books. Creepy people hold big secrets for convoluted reasons.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Annoyance

Chapter 10 contains a repeat of several pages. Editing needed here. Story moves slowly enough without the repetition.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Carrie
  • 11-11-10

Complex and Convincing

This is among the best of the Barbara Vine books. The narrator, while researching the life of his great grandfather slowly uncovers tragedy. At the same time he can hardly control the way his own life is being swept along. The depth and detail of research, the interlinking themes, the convincing characters, their psychology and behaviours, the final resolutions make this a top quality work and a complete joy to have unabridged on audio book.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sheila
  • 10-12-15

Good reading of a middling Vine

Not top-notch Barbara Vine, but Robert Powell's reading brings out its best. You may be quite tired of House of Lords reform by the end (I was), and I would have preferred more of the history and less of the present day, but it's an interesting idea reasonably well carried out. Robert Powell is an excellent reader and I will certainly try another book read by him.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-29-20

If you have never read a Barbara Vine book, don’t start with this one.

Unlike most of the books written by Ruth Rendell that I have read, her books written as Barbara Vine are not whodunnits, but mysteries, engaging the reader in attempts to get at the psychological core of the story. I felt that No Night is too Long, A Dark Adapted Eye and A Fatal Inversion were more engaging, but I found The Blood Doctor interesting enough to follow til the end, and it’s well narrated by Robert Powel.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Julian E. Boyce
  • 04-28-20

Poor Bloody Henry!

This is a book that will live with me for a very long time. After a hesitant beginning, when I was tempted to abandon it, it pulled itself out of its mire and got going. I have to admit that was mainly due to the reading by Robert Powell; he could come and read the dictionary to me if he felt so inclined. I also have to admit my admiration for Barbara Vine, Aka Ruth Rendell. I simply cannot understand how she managed to keep that little lot going. A star.
I could have done without the history of the House of Lords but, hey, all knowledge has a use.
Previously, I knew very little about haemophilia, other than the fact that in the Victorian era it was rife. I know a lot more now.
The way Lord Martin Nanther plods his way through his family history is breathtaking, then to discover that there were unanswered questions and to be defeated at every turn was at times, almost crippling.
The final denouement was almost heartbreaking.
I listen to my books while walking my dog on our local park and this morning when I reached the end, I must be honest here, I very nearly wept.
Without doubt, the best Barbara Vine I have read/listened to yet. I just loved it.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Julia
  • 12-13-17

Dry and dull

Struggled to get through it. Tedious and slow. Hard going and not engaging at all.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-28-15

Very slow and no tension. But excellent narrator.

The story was very boring and extremely slow. The narrator was excellent but there was way too much about the House of Lords and not enough tension. It was like being at someone's house and being forced to watch a boring holiday slide show. Mental torture.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Ross Bower
  • 05-23-14

AMAZINGLY SLOW, BORING AND TEDIOUS!

Tedious, boring and deadly dull! The "complexities" of the plot lie around an MP worrying about the possible change of law denying landed gentry a place in the Lords. However, historically speaking, this law was not passed and so the self-pitying and naval gazing didn't engage me. Historical element revolves around the family tree of great-grandfather, medical advisor to Queen Victoria, specifically in relation to haemophilia. Genealogy is of interest but rather difficult to follow as more and more family members are added. Without a paper copy impossible to keep track of so many people! These thoughts are the result of listening to Part 1 and I am not sure if I have the tolerance required to spend time with Part 2. Massive admirer of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine but am not enthusiastic about this one. Robert Powell, as usual, fantastic narrator!