Title: Black Drop
Author: Leonora Nattrass
Genre: Historical Thriller
Publication Date: 14th October 2021
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?
I’m a massive fan of historical fiction, especially those with a darker edge, and Black Drop was the perfect example of exactly that! The story follows Laurence Jago, a clerk in the Foreign Office, during the turbulent year of 1794. Britain is at war with a revolutionary France and attempting to negotiate with the independent American colonies. Laurence finds himself embroiled in a dangerous situation involving a leak to the newspapers of what appears to be highly sensitive information and the apparent suicide of a fellow clerk, Will. Nothing feels right to Laurence and nothing is quite as it seems. Whispers of treason can lead very quickly to a grisly execution and discord is running amok.
It is incredibly clear that Leonora Nattrass has been meticulous with her research. Truly exceptional historical fiction transports the reader entirely to a far off time and place. Black Drop does this and more with impeccable characterisation and an atmosphere which leaps off the page from start to finish. Nattrass seamlessly weaves Jago and other characters into the narratives of real historical figures and it never for a single second feels forced. The language is beautifully rich and feels authentic whilst remaining completely accessible. The grime and poverty of 18th century London, plus the gaping divide between the rich and poor is woven perfectly into the well-paced and fascinating plot. I genuinely couldn’t put this book down, it really is a masterclass in how to write gripping and imaginative historical fiction, in fact it really doesn’t feel like fiction at all. I couldn’t recommend Black Drop more highly. If you enjoy viscerally evocative stories filled with atmosphere, drama, intrigue, violence and rich historical detail then pick this book up – you won’t be disappointed.