Shedding light on Britain’s murky history with slavery, Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s novel is brutal, gripping and vivid.

Close attention to detail has been given to every aspect of this horrific but brilliantly written debut novel. From the intricacies of the plot to the evocative descriptions of Deptford and the surround area, Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s debut novel is a success in every way.

Blood & Sugar begins with the discovery of an unidentified body, hanging on a hook at Deptford Dock – a person who was terribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark. Meanwhile, a few days later war hero Harry Corsham is visited by the sister of an old friend Tad Archer who has gone missing. As Harry launches into an investigation trying to discover what has happened to his friend, he finds himself taken into a dark and corrupt world in which everything he holds dear is put at risk.

This is a deeply dark story of slavery, corruption and horror that is thoroughly gripping to read from start to finish – thanks to each of the characters having their own dark secrets that leads the reader to questioning can anyone actually be trusted. The brilliancy of this story is the way in which Laura Shepherd- Robinson has so vividly brought to life this world, sparing no gruesome details about the conditions of the slavery ships and the state of the numerous bodies that Harry discovers in the course of his investigation.

The style in which the story has been written and is presented really allows the reader to feel as though they are standing side-by-side during Harry’s investigation, despite perhaps early on in the book when some passages feel slightly clunky.

This being said, Blood & Sugar powerfully highlights the horror of slavery with the language and vivid descriptions of all that slaves were put through – showing just how much research the author has put into the story to ensure accuracy.

What also makes this such an effective crime thriller is the way in which the numerous plot twists come at just the right time, to keep the reader in suspense for even longer. The whole story is beautifully built up in tension and written with a confidence that is admirable.

A powerful, uncomfortable and deeply disturbing read, Laura Shepherd- Robinson’s Blood & Sugar is a really impressive debut novel.

By Emma Clarendon

Blood & Sugar is available to buy now.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐