Book Review: Blue Water

Death came aboard with the cormorant. It arrived on the seventh day of our voyage…

Leonora Nattrass ~ Blue Water


This is the secret report of disgraced former Foreign Office clerk Laurence Jago, written on the mail ship Tankerville en route to Philadelphia. His mission is to aid the civil servant charged with carrying a vital treaty to Congress that will prevent the Americans from joining with the French in their war against Britain.

When the civil servant meets an unfortunate ‘accidental’ end, Laurence becomes the one person standing between Britain and disaster. It is his great chance to redeem himself at Whitehall – except that his predecessor has taken the secret of the treaty’s hiding place to his watery grave.

As the ship is searched, Laurence quickly discovers that his fellow passengers – among them fugitive French aristocrats, an American plantation owner, an Irish actress and her performing bear – all have their own motives to find the treaty for themselves. And as a second death follows the first, Laurence must turn sleuth in order to find the killer before he has an ‘accident’ of his own.


An interesting take on a ‘locked room’ mystery, Blue Water lures readers onto a voyage with a missing treaty and a murderer.

Although nicely written and initially engaging, the book failed to keep my interest. It was very slow and the setting did not allow for much excitement. The prose was in keeping with the style I would expect for the time, but this made it quite wordy and dull, although the variety of diary entries, letters and the Captain’s log did help to break it up.

The characters on the other hand were excellent, with a great variety of classes, backgrounds and secrets and I very much enjoyed the inclusion of French aristocracy escaping the guillotine. Naturally the dancing bear was a highlight and once he arrived, the book improved vastly.

I was quite surprised that the sailors didn’t make more fuss about women on board, but without them, the plot would not have been nearly so interesting and overall the historical research was sound and very visual. There were a few red herrings, which Nattrass focused on a bit too much, meaning the ultimate reveal felt a bit underwhelming.

A good book overall, but not quite the swashbuckling adventure I was hoping for.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thanks to Viper Books for my proof copy. Opinions my own.

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