The Blood Doctor (2002)

Cover art for The Blood Doctor UK edition SUMMARY
Lord Nanther embarks on a biography of his great-grandfather, the first Lord Nanther, physician extraordinary to Queen Victoria and an expert on blood diseases. What he uncovers begins to horrify him as he realizes that Nanther died a guilty man -- carrying a horrific secret to the grave.
- From the 2002 Viking hardback edition




  • Penguin Audiobook, 06/06/2002. Read by Anton Lesser.
  • The working title for this novel was Bloody Henry.
  • The book opens with two detailed family trees, one for the Henderson family and one for the Nanther family. These both include details which aren't actually alluded to in the main text (such as the name of the narrator's sister's son) and omit information which is uncovered in the course of the text.
  • The narrator quotes Ibsen's remark from Hedda Gabler, "People don't do such things". This is also the title of a short story in Rendell's 1976 collection The Fallen Curtain.
  • In retelling the story of a Victorian family and its hidden secrets, The Blood Doctor bears some resemblance to Asta's Book, as does its tale of a thwarted biographer and lost documents. That theme also permeates both The Blood Doctor and A Dark Adapted Eye, while its discussion of hereditary diseases recalls The House of Stairs.
  • Rendell presumably draws on her own experiences in sitting in the House of Lords, although she is a life peer, unlike the narrator.

June 06, 2002 (originally scheduled for March)

To Richard and Patricia, Lord and Lady Acton, with love and gratitude


"Ruth Rendell, under the pseudonym of Barbara Vine, has produced a stunning mixture of fact and fiction that has the listener's blood pressure rising with excitement at each turn of the tape."
- Kim Bunce, The Observer (review of audiobook)

Combining Victorian and modern medicine, geneaology, biography and politics with consummate skill, The Blood Doctor captures many of the best traits of previous Vine novels while still maintaining its own distinctive tone. The cast of characters, though large even by Vine's standards, is expertly handled, and the use of a single narrative voice gives us a fine sympathy with those involved. Moving and compelling.

Cover art for The Blood Doctor US edition

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