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 love investigating the real history and time periods found in the books I’m reading and Leonora Nattrass does an amazing job of transporting you back in time and reliving this turbulent and fascinating part of history, which is jam-packed full of double-crossing, back-stabbing, subterfuge and unsteady allegiances – I could not put to down and it has left me with a real book hangover as it was so immersive and exciting a tale.
The Black Drop truly gives us a fascinating insight into Jago’s experiences and allows us to travel back in time with him and witness these events unfolding at this turbulent and uncertain time in English history– as well as getting the wider impact of these changes at a very intriguing time in history from the perspective of some unforgettable characters that reminded me of my favourite Du Maurier novel ‘The King’s General’ and set me off in search of more information about what it was like to try and survive on your wits this time in history…
This is a really engrossing read. Nattress has an excellent mixture of characters in this novel, from Jago himself to Philpott and even the dog Mr Gibbs – which really shows the reader that these turbulent events had an impact on life whoever you were and whatever your situation, providing much food for thought about democracy, independence and morality during this period for a 21st-century readership. There have been a fair few comparisons with Laura Shepherd Robinson and I think that both writers excel at transporting you to another time and immersing you in the sights sounds and smells of a very different world. I think that readers of historical novels have had plenty of Tudor tales to enjoy and will get totally caught up in the dangers and intrigues of a very different period through this novel
I think that Leonora Nattress is just as skilful in writing about personal matters as she is about the history or the politics at this time and the way that the impact of these events was so vividly depicted was a real strength of this novel. It was fascinating to hear about Laudanum from an insider and see the way that politics, corruption and duplicity haven’t moved on much in the last three hundred years…
I loved the fact that Jago’s picaresque and engaging story brings the personal into the historical research and we totally connect with him through the twists and turns of this fascinating ‘confession’ As usual, I spent a lot of time online after finishing it, looking up the history of this time period and falling into a bit of a rabbit hole finding out as much as I could about characters like Jago and there is a wealth of fascinating information here if you are interested too as he was SUCH a fascinating character in his own right. His involvement in this compelling political case makes for engrossing reading and I found myself totally gripped by the exciting, intelligently plotted and very credible tale we find ourselves being told in his own inimitable way…
Fans of historical epics and enthusiasts of novels exploring tpolitical history from a more personal perspective will love this beautifully written novel and I will be recommending it to readers who love period fiction and strongly written literary narratives. I really enjoyed this journey with Jago through a fascinating episode in English history and heartily recommend that you too delve into this period in all its turbulent glory and find out more about it for yourself.
Buy yourself a copy here and spend an afternoon or two like I did, totally wrapped up in this intelligent and engaging novel that wears its learning lightly and carries you forward as you are compelled to know what unfolds for these characters whose stories remain with you long after you’ve closed the final page. I totally fell for Jago after sharing his confession and firmly recommend it to readers who like an engrossing and fascinating period read.
Historical crime fiction set in a teeming late eighteenth-century London, as nimbly realised as by the genre’s master, Andrew Taylor. Foreign office clerk Laurence Jago is a reluctant spy involved in arcane skulduggery ― Financial Times
Black Drop is a joy from start to finish. I particularly liked the glimpses of the grubby machinery of government from the inside, giving a real sense of the intrigues behind closed doors. Jago is a very sympathetic hero, with all his flaws, virtues and secrets, and Philpott made me want to smile and cheer — Andrew Taylor, author of The Ashes of London
This opium-fuelled gem is a murderous romp through the tangled roots of British democracy — Janice Hallett, author of The Appeal
A gripping, intricate story of Georgian high politics and low life. Leonora Nattrass’s historical spy novel is top notch — W.C. Ryan, author of A House of Ghosts
A riveting political thriller, set at a fulcrum-point in global history. The setting is viscerally immersive and the characters spring to life from the page. This masterful narrative of deception, intrigue and heroism unfolds with compelling pace, wry humour and acute psychological observation. Gripping, moving and utterly engaging — Philippa East, author of Little White Lies
A thrilling slice of pitch-dark historical fiction, led by a superbly engaging narrator. Entertaining and deftly written, this gripping tale of murder and treachery on the smouldering streets of eighteenth-century London deserves to be huge — Emma Stonex, author of The Lamplighters
Nattrass writes so beautifully. Absolutely compelling, and so atmospheric I felt I was there, following Jago around the mean streets of eighteenth-century London — Frances Quinn, author of The Smallest Man
Writer On The Shelf
Leonora Nattrass studied eighteen-century literature and politics, and spent ten years lecturing in English and publishing works on William Cobbett. She then moved to Cornwall, where she lives in a seventeenth-century house with seventeenth-century draughts, and spins the fleeces of her traditional Ryeland sheep into yarn. Black Drop is her first novel.