Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blood Atonement by Dan Waddell

First Line: The candle on the ledge guttered as it neared its end, shadows dancing on the wall.

Still on the mend from the events in The Blood Detective, DCI Grant Foster is supposed to be on light duty. That goes out the window when a single mother is murdered and her fourteen-year-old daughter abducted. When his investigation turns up strikingly similar circumstances in the disappearance of another young teenager three years previously, Foster believes there is a link, and he turns to genealogist Nigel Barnes to piece together the facts and find the connection.

The trail leads Barnes right back to 1890 when a young couple arrived in the UK. This husband and wife were running away from a terrible crime...a crime that is having horrible repercussions in the here and now.

Having enjoyed the first book in this series, I had to get my hands on this second, which also appears to be the last. Blood Atonement acknowledges the elephant in the room: the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints and the powerhouse position they have in the world of genealogy. Members may not be happy with Waddell's depiction of their religion since it touches on fundamentalist offshoots that practice polygamy as well as the actions the church has taken to erase (or at least cover up) things that have happened in their past that may not show them in a favorable light. It's this subterfuge that makes Barnes' investigation for the police so difficult.

The solution is convoluted and laced with a heavy dose of irony, but this isn't really what grabbed most of my attention. The still-healing Foster is brought face-to-face with a young boy-- eleven-year-old Gary-- whose life is in danger, and he takes it upon himself to protect him. Gary has been nothing but trouble most of his short life, but it's heart-warming to see how Foster warms up to him-- and how Gary reacts to him. Protecting Gary brings several of Foster's own shortcomings into sharp focus, and the seasoned copper knows he needs to mend his ways.

To be honest, Blood Atonement's mystery had a bit too much religion for my taste, but the characters are what made the book. I like watching how Nigel Barnes sifts through archives to find answers, and DCI Grant Foster is just the sort of homicide detective I like.

Blood Atonement by Dan Waddell
ISBN: 9780141025667
Penguin Books © 2009
Paperback, 344 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #2 Nigel Barnes mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Paperback Swap


  1. It certainly sounds interesting, Cathy. I'm not much of a one for a lot of religion in the books I read, either. But still, the premise is interesting.

    1. It is, and so far, it's the only one that takes on the LDS Church's powerful position in genealogy.

  2. Hmmm. Not my type of book, wouldn't like all the LDS religious information.

    I liked a book by Stephen White in his Alan Gregory series which focused on problems with the LDS. He wrote a bibliography in the back.

    For one thing, they didn't let in Black members until years after the Civil Rights Movement. For another, their position on women's equality is awful. And I'm sure on LGBTQ rights as well. Actually, some members quite the church within the last few years because it wouldn't let children of LGBTQ couples participate.

    On genealogy, is this about the fact that LDS church took on locating immigrants who came through Ellis Island? I read about that. And I think it's because they were looking for souls to claim.

    1. I lived in Utah and attended an LDS university, Kathy. (No, I'm not LDS.) No, the book doesn't deal with immigration through Ellis Island. The couple in 1890 were heading east to the UK.

      The reason why genealogy is so important to the LDS is that baptizing the dead is an important sacrament. When you die, Kathy, a member of the church could baptize you as a Mormon so that you could enter Heaven. I once told someone that-- since I lived amongst them and had every opportunity in which to convert...and didn't--if someone baptized me after I died, I'd come back and haunt them. I have some wonderful Mormon friends, but their religion just isn't for me.


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