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BOOK REVIEW: Blue Water by Leonora Nattrass

By Hector MacKenzie

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Viper (hardback) £14.99

Blue Water.
Blue Water.

This sequel to 2021's Black Drop, charting the adventures of reluctant spy Laurence Jago at sea, introduces a colourful cast of characters, a real sense of place and some delightful one-liners.

The year is 1795 and disgraced former Foreign Office clerk Laurence Jago is aboard the Tankerville mail ship, en route to Philadelphia.

To all intents and purposes travelling as assistant to the exuberant journalist William Philpott, Jago's real mission is to aid the civil servant carrying a vital treaty – one that will prevent the Americans from joining with the French in the war against Britain – to Congress.

It's a chance of redemption for Jago as he considers his future and reflects on the past.

However, when the civil servant meets an unfortunate - and ostensibly accidental - end and the treaty disappears, Laurence realises only he can now prevent war with the United States.

Trapped on the ship with travellers including two penniless French aristocrats, an Irish actress and a dancing bear, he must hunt down both the lost treaty and a murderer before he has a tragic 'accident' himself...

Nattrass, who draws well on colourful tales from her late father's maritime career and research in the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, succeeds in sketching memorable characters whose interactions keep the plot moving an good clip like a Post Office ship with the wind in its sails.

From the no-nonsense Captain Morris – who describes windbag Gunner Smith as "the man talks bollocks from dawn to dusk" – to the seductive Lizzie McKendrick and the moody, mysterious Maximilien de Salles, the devises a page-turning historical whodunnit with aplomb.

There's a warmth throughout suggesting a writer at ease and enjoying her craft and such is her success bringing characters to life that it'd be easy to see a film director snapping up the rights for this one.

Hector Mackenzie


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