Black Drop

Black Drop

by Leonora Nattrass

2 out of 5

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?

Jago works in a minor role for the British government, but he finds himself getting attention from many parties.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The story follows Laurence Jago, a minor clerk whose life is about to change when he is promoted to work with an American representative. He is pressured into providing information by a rather formidable woman; and one of his colleagues has just committed suicide.

Unfortunately, I could not get on with this book.
The writing is stodgy and boring.
Jago is a dull character, with no agency of his own, and just drifts along with what everyone else says or does. I can kinda understand that being a bland and overlooked character makes him a perfect mole, but it made for such hard reading.
The rest of the cast are dull and completely forgettable. They all started to blur together and failed to make a lasting impression.

Plotwise, I didn't get far enough to make an honest assessment. I found the reading such a hard slog, and I kept coming back to it over several weeks, trying to give it another chance, but no.
The death of Jago's friend/colleague caught my interest, as it seemed that the book was finally picking up. But alas, despite Jago's suspicions that it wasn't as it appeared, it was straight back to dull political dinners and discussions that just droned on.

On a positive note, I thought it was historically accurate.


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