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Blood & Sugar

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  874 ratings  ·  191 reviews
'A page-turner of a crime thriller . . . This is a world conveyed with convincing, terrible clarity'
C. J. Sansom

Blood & Sugar is the thrilling debut historical crime novel from Laura Shepherd-Robinson.

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
Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 9th 2020 by Pan (first published January 9th 2019)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  874 ratings  ·  191 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
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 ...more
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,
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
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 ...more
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Liz Barnsley
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Lucy Banks
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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

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.

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 ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joanne Robertson
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
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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
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
Jul 16, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
St Jerome
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"..we weave ourselves into knots trying to convince ourselves we are not monsters, even as we grow fat on the profits of our monstrosity."
An exceptionally well conceived and thrilling story line combined with characters who come to life makes it a must read book. As a social history of a period, a town and of the British slave trade, this is an excellent book. It’s is extremely-well researched and well-written. The author provides real sights into an appalling period of British history.
A solid
"'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
Renita D'Silva
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just wonderful
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well....what a roller coaster! I just couldn't put this book down once I'd started. I love this type of historical fiction. The author has obviously researched this shameful period of British history well with great attention to the political climate and geographical details too. The book gives an impelling insight into the horrors of the slave trade during the 17th century and the birth of the abolitionist movement. Against this backdrop the author weaves an intriguing story. A crime thriller ...more
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)
Jacob Collins
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the moment I saw the cover of Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s Blood & Sugar I knew I wanted to read this book and I became even more intrigued when I read the blurb. This is a novel that I really wanted to savour as I was reading, as Laura’s writing was so utterly immersive and it really brought to life the sounds, smells and the people of London in the 1780s. There are so many brilliant descriptive phrases in this book which really added depth and colour to the landscape that Laura was ...more
Lel Budge
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is Laura Shepherd-Robinson's debut novel. Set in the 18th century and is an brutally atmospheric and emotional tale of the horrific slave trade in London, England and the British Empire itself.

A woman is missing and her brother is trying to investigate, as a slavery abolitionist, the powers that be want to stop him, at any cost. A mix of politics, slavery, murder, racism and absolute greed this is a complex and heartbreaking tale. A thought provoking, marvellous piece of historical fiction.
Katica Laza
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this fast paced historical/crime thriller.

I thought the topics, setting and place made it even more interesting.

(I will write a more in depth review another time. But I believe it was a good book to pick for book of the month and would recommend it to anyone for like a holiday read?)
Bella (Cheezyfeet Books)
I LOVED this. It’s not my usual cup of tea but I thought I’d give it a go, and I’m so glad that I did. It’s atmospheric, dark, and twisted, and kept me gripped all the way through. I’m so impressed with how easily I could immerse myself in the dirt and the grime of the Deptford Docks, despite knowing pretty much nothing about the time period - this is something I really struggle with with historical fiction and why generally, I don’t enjoy it as a genre. However, as I said, it’s so vivid and I ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really gripping, historical, crime novel which brings to the fore the evil and inhumanity of the slave trade in order to build the sugar business in 18th century England. Very atmospheric 18th century setting - the sights, the sounds and the smells. Quite gory in parts!
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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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