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Blood & Sugar

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  3,349 ratings  ·  481 reviews
June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.

Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cau
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published January 24th 2019 by Mantle (first published January 9th 2019)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,349 ratings  ·  481 reviews

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Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
**4.5 stars **

Deptford dock June 1781, and in the summer breeze, a body gently sways from a hook above the dock, but there was nothing gentle about this unfortunate man’s death - he had been horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.

War hero Captain Harry Corsham receives a visit from the sister of his abolitionist friend Tad. Tad is a lawyer, and his sister says he had travelled to Deptford to expose a secret of enormous proportions, one that would hopefully help bring to an end the B
Laura Shepherd-Robinson's debut is an impressively researched piece of 18th century historical fiction that proves to be an atmospheric, viscerally gut wrenching depiction of the realities and horrors of the slave trade within Britain, London and the wider British Empire. This is not for the faint hearted as its brutal portrayal spares the reader none of the heinous details of the era, providing an indelible and heartbreaking stain of unforgettable shame on British history. It took me a little w ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good solid historical read, starting in the eighteen's century, June 1781, describing the dark and brutal practices of the slave trade. A first for me, this theme, in the historical genre. The story features Captain Harry Corsham, a war hero investigating the disappearance and death of his former friend and abolitionist Tad Archer, getting involved in a very dark and political plot.
Came across this book in Edinburgh Waterstones. Yes, definitely an interesting and worthwhile read, good writing,
Liz Barnsley
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So I read this SUPER early and have been sitting on my hands waiting to talk about it – not being the BIGGEST fan of historical fiction I wondered how I’d find it – turns out that in my opinion Blood and Sugar is one of the best books I’ve read in the last decade.
Impeccably researched and beautifully written, this novel is so incredibly descriptive that it places you firmly in its setting to the point you can practically live it. The story itself is utterly gripping, dark and twisty but always a
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
what a debut!! I really loved this. I often bemoan the fact in period fiction, specifically when set in London or in port towns that the stories are so white. This one is not. Such a rich picture of London and especially Deptford in the 18th century when it had been an important port for overseas trade including that of human beings. An abolitionist is found murdered and his estranged best friend starts to ask questions. I loved how the author made the main character constantly having to chose b ...more
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An astonishing and accomplished debut. *Note to self* read everything this author writes. The horrors of the slave trade are brought to life and captured in all its grim and tainted detail amidst the docks of Deptford and London. Secret dealings and trade of ‘black gold’ was extremely lucrative and had its protectors in the legal system, the political system and amongst the merchants of the time. We also see the rise of the abolitionists and their commitment to ending slavery. All historical fic ...more
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Blood & Sugar is the thrilling debut historical crime novel from Laura Shepherd-Robinson, and boy is this a cracking debut! It highlights, as a fictional story, the horrifying ubiquity of slave ownership and trade in eighteenth-century Britain, and the exploration of this topic within the context of the story is what pushed this from a four-star cracker to a five-star must-read. This subtly nuanced and intricately plotted tale keeps you very much on your toes but is more profound than a lot of h ...more
The extensive dramatis personae at the start of the book alerts readers to the fact there will be a large cast of characters (with some colourful names) and that they will need to keep their wits about them. Can I add that I always love a book with a map at the front!

Harry’s investigation puts him – and, it transpires, those close to him – in danger because he’s up against individuals who don’t like people asking questions and who have no scruples about preventing them asking more. Harry soon fi
Lucy Banks
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Intricate, well-researched story about the slave trade, corruption and murder.

I do enjoy a good 'who-dunnit' style book, and the unusual backdrop of the UK's slave-trade definitely appealed. It's good to write about the atrocities committed, rather than seek to brush them under the carpet of history...

For the most part, I was engrossed; though the ending caused me some issues. More on that later.

Captain Harry Corsham
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
This new historical mystery – Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s first novel – deals with one of the darkest subjects in our history. Set in 1781, it follows the investigations of former army officer Captain Harry Corsham into the disappearance of his friend, the lawyer and abolitionist Tad Archer. It seems that Tad had been about to uncover a secret that, once exposed, could damage the reputations of those involved in the British slave trade. Could someone have killed Tad to prevent him from telling wha ...more
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Fairly pedestrian historical crime thriller, in the mode of The Alienist, in which a white man learns that Slavery Is Bad.

There are some interesting side characters, but I found the narrator's voice -- and, frankly, almost everything about him -- rather bland. The book exposes some of the horrors of the 18th Century British slave trade, but the mystery plot is convoluted and more than a little bloated.

And then, rather to my disgust, the murderer turns out to be (view spoiler)
Jul 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is quite possibly the most boring book I have ever read. Also the whole 'white man learns how fucking horrifying slavery was yet doesn't really do anything because he cares too much about his own life' is a narrative I don't think we need to see in fiction because that's just actual life isn't it. Nah. Not the book for me. I persisted to the end in the hope it would get better but I should have put it down after 50 pages.
Might be great if you like really slow mysteries and know nothing abo
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english, netgalley
Thank you to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan Mantle for the free copy

War hero captain Harry Corsham is flung into the role of detective when his estranged friend goes missing and leaves a mysterious message with his sister. His quest leads him to Deptford, the slave trade home town on the Thames that has it's own rulers and laws. Slave trade, abolition, trade, insurance, sex, voodoo, opium, nothing is what it seems, stories and motives change, friends are foes and foes are friends. very atmospheric
This book fell short of the mark for me. It wasn't bad by any means but it could (and should) have been so much better. For a start, I found it a bit overstuffed. There were a lot of characters and themes introduced and not all of them were fleshed out or explored properly. For example, it's hinted that the main character, a former soldier in the American War of Independence, is suffering from PTSD. This could have been a fascinating character aspect to explore but unfortunately it never went fu ...more
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
2.5, perhaps. This book has left me feeling more than slightly troubled; some elements of the ending I found particularly unpalatable. I can’t specify what without spoilers, but let me say that the reveal about Brabazon was poorly treated in my view, and I felt that the fate of Amelia Bradstreet was thrown away like it was nothing.

Of the rest I admired some of the writing, and I thought the dialogue in the early parts of the book was excellent. The thematic weight was there: the perverse moral
Nov 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, history
Gripping historical thriller. Come for the gruesome murder, stay for the vivid account of Deptford capital of the 18 C slaving industry. An updated and compelling “Red Harvest”!
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Historical crime fiction is quickly becoming my new favourite genre!

It’s the summer of 1781. At Deptford Dock, the body of a man is found hanging from a hook. He’s been tortured, branded with a slaver’s mark and had his throat cut. A few days later, our main protagonist Captain Harry Corsham receives a visit from the sister of an old friend. She tells him her brother, Tad, a fierce abolitionist who is convinced he’s found a way to expose a secret that will pave the way to put an end to slavery,
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book on the docks and the English end of the slave trade. Our man gets dragged somewhat against his will into investigating the goings on a Deptford docks. Deptford in the 18 th century appears a dangerous and corrupt place, no one is trustworthy and there are multiple villains with multiple motives.
Gripping and gritty.

visit the locations in the novel

This is one impressive novel. Impressive for the writing, the subject, the level of detail and research and the overall reading experience. This novel is on another level. The best way I can describe this is similar to an experience of a interactive museum – like Beamish, or the Yorvik Centre where you are guided around mock ups of historical houses, Viking villages etc. You can taste, see, smell and feel the setting, the emotions and everything in between.

The pac
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
1.5 rounded up

I think I only finished this to prove a point to myself as I seem to be DNFing almost everything I start at the moment. I don’t read a whole lot of historical fiction but this had so much hype that I thought I’d give it a try - a nice, long book to get my teeth stuck into over a long weekend away. Instead I found myself skim reading the latter half, getting increasingly frustrated as the author seemed to lose her grip on the already slightly preposterous narrative. There was way to
This is one of those books that I doubt I could do justice to in a review - without doubt one of the very best books I've read this year and it'll most certainly be one to watch in 2019. A great action-packed story (blimey, this book is hard to put down!), a fascinating array of characters (including a complex, driven main character who I felt a deep attachment to), wonderfully written - but also a stark, honest, devastating depiction of slavery in Britain (focusing on the dockyard of Deptford) ...more
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
enjoyed this historical crime novel based in the late 18th century Deptford based with the backdrop of slavery, had many twists and turns and also a new voice in crime novels too but felt the book could of been slightly shorter though but overall liked it.
Joanne Robertson
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My love of historical fiction has gone to new levels after reading Blood and Sugar! It’s a sumptuous story that takes you on a breathtaking journey to solve a heinous crime. The moral depths of despair are laid bare so that the images conjured up by the narrative really do evoke a plethora of emotional responses.

Deptford isn’t a place I’d ever given much thought to before but this is the second book I’ve read in as many months that used the history of its shipbuilding and maritime industrial dev
Sarah Knight
Mar 27, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the early 1700s around Deptford docks in London, Captain Henry Corsham investigates the death of an old friend, Tad Archer. Tad was murdered after being horrifically tortured. The local magistrate, Peregrine Child and the local Mayor, Mayor Stokes, do not appear all that interested in finding the culprit. Corsham discovers Tad, a vehement slavery abolitionist, made a lot of enemies due to his views.
After four or chapters. I found the book quite boring. There was a repetition of Captain C
Verónica Fleitas Solich
From the first word we immerse ourselves in a story with a very well accomplished atmosphere.
I was immediately intrigued by the mind of our protagonist and wanted to know more about him, in addition to accompanying him in his search to find Tad's murderer.
I admit that at times the rhythm became a bit slow but I suppose that the story deserved it because it had to be well linked to cover the whole panorama.
The historical aspect of the story is something I have not found in a book for a long time,
"'feci quod potui, faciant meliora potentes.'

i have done what i could, let those who can do better."

blood & sugar is a book that opens with the torture and murder of an abolitionist in a notorious slaving port, and, by the time it comes to a close, has begun to pick apart the knot of threads that hold bound the vast reality of british slaving, laws surrounding slave's bodies and their rights, and networks of political, sexual and actual brutality used to suppress resistance. it confronts what ex
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-white-square
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Megan L (Iwanttoreadallthebooks)
Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson is historical fiction set in 1781 in England. An unidentified body that has been tortured and branded is found hanging on a hook on the docks at Deptford. Not long after, Captain Harry Corsham, a war hero who returned to London after fighting in America, gets a visit from the sister of one of his oldest friends. Tad Archer has gone missing and his sister Amelia believes it is because Tad was an abolitionist and was trying to bring down the slaving trade b ...more
Donal Guilfoyle
I gather by the star ratings on this book I'm fairly alone in my criticism but, hear we go.

First of all the setting is so Dickensian it's artificial. This book was set in 1781 but the language was more upper class 19th century. How a local sherrif (magistrate in the book) understands the meaning of Occam's Razor is beyond me.

The pace was slow. 100 pages in and we're still following out hero galloping from town to town. It took way too long to get to the heart of the novel.

The characters were q
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Laura Shepherd-Robinson was born in Bristol in 1976. She has a BSc in Politics from the University of Bristol and an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics. Laura worked in politics for nearly twenty years before re-entering normal life to complete an MA in Creative Writing at City University. She lives in London with her husband, Adrian.

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“Mutato nomine de te fabula narrator. Change but the name and the tale is told of you.” 2 likes
“How well do you feel the book portrayed life in eighteenth-century Britain and the ever-expanding London? Did you get a sense of Britain’s place in the world, and how the British viewed themselves as a nation?” 1 likes
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