Thursday 14 October 2021

Book Review: Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass

Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass book cover

AD* | This is the confession of Laurence Jago. Clerk. Gentleman. Reluctant spy.

July 1794, and the streets of London are filled with rumours of revolution. Political radical Thomas Hardy is to go on trial for treason, the war against the French is not going in Britain's favour, and negotiations with the independent American colonies are on a knife-edge.

Laurence Jago - clerk to the Foreign Office - is ever more reliant on the Black Drop to ease his nightmares. A highly sensitive letter has been leaked to the press, which may lead to the destruction of the British Army, and Laurence is a suspect. Then he discovers the body of a fellow clerk, supposedly a suicide.

Blame for the leak is shifted to the dead man, but even as the body is taken to the anatomists, Laurence is certain both of his friend's innocence, and that he was murdered. But after years of hiding his own secrets from his powerful employers, and at a time when even the slightest hint of treason can lead to the gallows, how can Laurence find the true culprit without incriminating himself?

Filled with politics, mystery, and intrigue, Black Drop takes you on a wild ride through the beating heart of 1790s London. 

The main character is a lowly clerk named Laurence Jago, but the story is set against the wider backdrop of key events happening at the time. There is so much going on, yet the book remains laser-focused on Jago. We learn about his life and his work, yet also about his thoughts, motivations and personality. 

It quickly becomes clear that Jago has ambition, yet he also carries plenty of secrets. If those secrets got out, his very life could be in danger. Jago soon finds himself playing a desperate game with the highest of stakes. As events escalate and he becomes ensconced ever deeper in the political web, Jago's increasingly despairing actions only make him all the more endearing. 

The timeline jumps around, adding to the suspense. The somewhat chaotic nature of the story relates perfectly to Jago's own addled state of mind with his increasing reliance on the eponymous Black Drop. It is hectic and fast-paced, yet at times is also able to slow right down and add focus and tension to important scenes.

Beautifully written and painting a vivid picture of the London of the time, Black Drop is an immersive historical mystery. 

Rating: 3 stars 

Black Drop is available to buy now. 

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below! 

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