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?
A thrilling historical mystery, perfect for readers of C.J. Sansom, Andrew Taylor, Antonia Hodgson and Laura Shepherd-Robinson.
I like to think I have pretty broad tastes when it comes to reading, but in all honesty, historical fiction is where my heart really lies. I picked up Black Drop from Bert’s Books as a Christmas present to myself (that’s totally a thing, right?) and had been looking forward to diving in.
It did not disappoint. As the daughter of a diplomat, I do enjoy a bit of political intrigue, and I was totally engrossed by the Foreign Office setting. There is quite a lot to keep track of, but Leonora Nattrass is such a skilful storyteller that as the web grows more tangled, the tension ramps up, and I found myself racing through the pages. Laurence Jago is a great protagonist – I do like a flawed narrator – and it is a pleasure to follow him on his thrilling adventures through the streets of London.
The sense of threat around every corner, of the real peril in which Jago finds himself, is wonderfully done, and his dependence on the ‘black drop’ heightens the paranoia and feeling of unease. This is a superbly dark and twisty historical thriller, with some fantastic set pieces: I especially enjoyed the scenes at the menagerie. Like Laurence, I found myself unsure who to trust, assessing characters with a suspicious mind, not taking anyone at face value. It’s a tremendously engaging and fun position to be in as a reader.
Black Drop is astonishingly accomplished; an intricate story plotted with incredible attention to detail. And I am very excited that Laurence Jago will return in the sequel, Blue Water, coming later this year – it’s on my list already!
Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass is published by Viper Books and is available to purchase here.