Blood & Sugar By Laura Shepherd-Robinson – A Review

Publisher: Mantle

Publication Date: 24th January

I took a leap out of my historical fiction comfort zone with this one. It’s not that long ago that I wouldn’t have picked up historical fiction at all, but now that I love it I’m usually to be found amidst the cobbled dirty backstreets of Victorian London.

Blood & Sugar is set in 1781, when I read this I was a little nervous. I’m always a little afraid that it will be too far removed from what I know that I won’t be able to connect. Luckily with this book I really did connect.

In fact we clicked straight away and I was so relieved!

A body has been found hanging at Deptford Docks, mutilated and branded.

At the same time, Captain Henry (Harry) Corsham’s close friend and staunch abolishionist Thaddeus Archer (Tad) has been reported missing by his sister Amelia and when she appeals to him to help her find her brother, horrifyingly the body at the dock and missing Tad become one and the same.

It is now Harry’s (Captain Corsham) mission and indeed his duty to uncover what exactly has led to his friend being slaughtered and just who could have committed such an atrocity and why.

His investigation takes him on a gruesome, perilous journey, through the criminal underworld of the Deptford Docks and the stomach churning, barbaric realms of the slave trade.

With each person he encounters in his inquiries, Harry becomes further embroiled in the murky atmosphere at the docks and finds more and more horrors relating to the slave trade revealed to him.

Despite having a young son at home who he loves dearly and a wife who’s social standing and reputation is very important, Harry throws caution to the wind and continues in his quest for justice no matter what the cost to his reputation or even his safety.

There are some real standout villainous characters in this book, men who you will love to hate. There are also some charmingly slippery characters who Harry has to navigate through to reveal the truth. There are many businesses and reputations to protect and Harry finds these groups of men closing ranks, doing everything they can to protect their wealth and social standing.

Right at the start of this book there is a ‘Cast Of Characters’ section with a list of 31 character names and a little background on each and how they link in with each other. I must admit that this unnerved me a little! If a book needs a character list I’m always a little trepidatious that I’ll lose my thread. Luckily I only needed to refer to the list a couple of times and only really to briefly remind myself of a couple of character links.

The Deptford Docks are almost a character too. The murky backdrop of the docks with hidden back alleys and dodgy establishments was really evocative. With its gambling and prostitution, I love getting lost in a completely different world. A seedy, grubby, often treacherous world at that.

I haven’t ever read much or learned much at a about the slave trade but Blood & Sugar has made me develop somewhat of a fascination. I watched the television series Taboo with Tom Hardy which I think was set at around the same time but I don’t remember ever covering the subject at school. When a subject is so foul and shocking rather than make me turn my head away, I feel the need to know more because it feels so far outside the realms of possibility. Can these awful gut churning events have actually happened?

The attention to detail in this book is great, not too wordy, but extremely atmospheric. As a reader I got swept up with Harry and felt as if I was going along with him in his investigation. Learning who he could and couldn’t trust, unveiling more and more lies and coverup’s and making ever more grim discoveries. And there are numerous grim discoveries! If you’ve a sensitive stomach for subjects such as death, mutilation and torture then I would maybe swerve this book, or skim read those passages!

Me? I don’t mind a bit of gore!

Overall this book is a very accomplished debut and I am now super pumped to find out what Laura Shepherd-Robinson creates next!

If you’re a historical fiction fan I’d suggest you get your hands on it.

Thank you as always to the publisher for the review copy I received.

See you all soon.

Amanda @bookishchat xxx

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