Published by Mantle
Publication date – 24 January 2019
Source – review copy
June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.
Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .
To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.
And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford . . .
Harry Corsham is approached by the sister of his oldest friend. Tad Archer, vocal abolitionist, has disappeared and his sister, disgraced in society, wants Harry’s help. Harry soon discovers Tad murdered. It appeared that Tad had discovered a secret so explosive it could cause irreparable damage to the slave industry. A secret someone was willing to kill for.
As soon as I started reading I was transported back in time. I could easily envisage the scenes that were set out in the narrative, hear the shouts and sounds of London and Deptford, imagine the cacophony of noise and the clash of smells that would assault the senses.
The writing is assured, taut and in places so gripping I didn’t want to put it down. The reader is soon pulled into the maelstrom of 18th Century London and the dangers Harry faces in the course of his investigation. The characters are all well-drawn, the descriptions of them easily painting images of them in the reader’s mind. From Jamaica Mary, prostitute, who lives in a shack, to Lucias Stokes’ mayoral home, the extremes of society were expertly portrayed. As I read I could envisage the story being adapted for television.
The mystery itself was engaging. There are a whole host of people who paint a tableau of the melting pot society was at that time. Each one of them have their own secrets to hide, thwarting Harry in his attempts to find out who killed Tad. He is, also at times, his own worst enemy, seemingly on a path that could lead to his ruin, so determined is he to find out the truth. However that path will also surprisingly lead him closer to his wife, Caroline.
The novel is set in a time of slavery. The blatant racism and horror of that time is obviously shown in the novel. Read with 21st Century eyes, the injustices of the time quite rightly make the reader uncomfortable.
Blood and Sugar puts Laura Shepherd-Robinson well on the road to becoming a well-loved historical crime fiction author. I for one can’t wait to see what she writes next.
About the author
Laura Shepherd-Robinson was born in Bristol in 1976. She has a BSc in Politics from the University of Bristol and an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics. Laura worked in politics for nearly twenty years before re-entering normal life to complete an MA in Creative Writing at City University. She lives in London with her husband, Adrian. Blood & Sugar is her first novel.