"The past is a living thing; it's always present." It's the comment that haunts Dan Waddell's debut mystery, The Blood Detective. Nigel Barnes, a genealogist, knows that the keys to a modern murder spree are found in the past.

Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster and Detective Sergeant Heather Jenkins are puzzled by the bizarre series of letters and numbers carved in the chest of a dead man found in London. It takes a genealogist to recognize them as numbers referring to index numbers for birth, marriage and death records, records going back to 1879. When Foster hires Nigel to assist them in research, neither man realizes the importance of the historical records. Somewhere in old newspapers, archives and libraries is the clue to solving a series of violent murders that stir up the city of London. The two officers and Barnes suddenly find themselves racing to find a killer's future victims, with only a murder case from 1879 and historical records as clues. The reader is just getting to know the three investigators when the case reaches a terrifying climax.

Waddell's first mystery is a fascinating police procedural, combined with the workings of genealogical research. Sometimes the details of the two cases, with multiple victims, and numerous names, becomes a little overwhelming. Even so, anyone interested in cold cases will find this story intriguing. This is not similar to Rett MacPherson's Torie O'Shea mysteries. The Blood Detective is much darker and more violent. Readers of Kate Ellis' Wesley Peterson books might appreciate this mystery. With its British setting, police investigation, and historical connection, The Blood Detective reminds me of Ellis' cold cases. However, Waddell takes a different tack with the genealogical research.

Dan Waddell's The Blood Detective is a promising debut. If this leads to a series, there needs to be a little less detail about historical records and streets. Even so, there are promises of a unique series combining police investigation and genealogical research. The Blood Detective is an excellent choice for lovers of cold cases and British police procedurals.

The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2008. ISBN 9780312378905 (hardcover), 304p.

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