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Blood and Sugar – Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Here’s a guest review from one of our readers – Matt for a new book releasing on 24 January 2019, available to order in the shop.

This book is crime fiction, set in 1781. A military hero turned aspiring politician, Captain Henry Corsham, is visited by the sister of an old friend of his – Tad Archer – who has disappeared. Corsham makes his way to where Tad was heading to when last heard, Deptford, which was then the centre of the slavery industry in the UK. Tad turns out to have been murdered, and in such a way that strongly suggests links with the slave industry. When it becomes clear that Tad was promoting and working for the abolition of slavery, the link becomes even clearer. Corsham investigates, which takes brings him into contact with various unsavoury characters and the power of slavery interests. As he investigates, he finds that a really shocking incident on board a slave ship lies at the heart of the murder and some of the powerful interests want it to remain a secret.

I found the book really interesting for its coverage of slavery in the UK, which I confess to not having known a huge amount about previously, as what went on in this country is not as widely known as what went on in the US. Slaves and slavery had a legally ambiguous status in Britain at that time, but there was a lot of money in it. What was really shocking was the extreme way in which the slaves were treated not as human beings but as cargo, and the incident which lies at the heart of the mystery was based on a real historical event.

It was also interesting for its description of how London at the time was expanding rapidly, and indeed Deptford where much of the novel is set was at that point outside of London, compared to being several miles inside as today. And indeed the sense of place in the novel was very good, with the atmosphere of a seedy port captured well.
The plot worked well and kept the book going. It was arguably slightly more complicated than it needed to be, but this didn’t detract from the overall quality of the book. 

It was well written, and both locations and characters in the book were believable, and the subject matter made it thought provoking. Historical crime fiction, as with much crime fiction, is very often a series (such as Philip Kerr, and C J Sansom – a quote from who pops up on the cover), but this felt to me like a stand alone. A good debut novel from the author, and for crime fiction fans one worth reading.

Thanks Matt for the review, we’re glad you enjoyed it!