Tuesday, December 7, 2010

India Black: Review

India Black: A Madam of Espionage Mystery by Carol K. Carr is another terrific book sent to me on behalf of an author. This debut novel in the India Black series is nearly perfect. First off, let me just say that this book has what has got to be one of the top ten greatest introductions that I have ever read. Introductions and prefaces usually don't exactly knock your socks off. Some people skip them altogether. Trust me, if you read this book (and you should), then you definitely want to read the preface. It gives you India Black in a nutshell--her wit, her straight-forward manner, her independence...it's all there in three pages. Now that doesn't mean that you won't need to read the rest of the book--not by any means. But few authors are capable of summing up their characters so succinctly and in such an entertaining manner. Carr does a marvelous job of setting the reader up for the rest of the story.

And in India Black she has created an unique character, the madam of a brothel who finds herself smack in the middle of a tale of espionage and intrigue. It isn't bad enough that Sir Archibald Latham has had a heart attack and shuffled off this mortal coil in India's establishment. He was carrying around top secret memos in a case from the War Office and that case has managed to disappear...along with one of India's girls. The papers find their way to the Russian Embassy. Enter French, the handsome British spy, who offers to dispose of Latham's body...for a price. He wants India to help him get the documents back from the Russians. Their adventures take them from the Russian Embassy to a classy British hotel all the way to the coast of France. All in an effort to retrieve the documents and do one's duty to queen and country.

This is a fast-paced Victorian mystery that takes the reader from the lowest levels of London to the high society found at an embassy ball. There are escapes, cross-country chases by coach and by sled, sharp-shooting, and danger on the high seas. When you follow India and French around, you never know what you might face next. All in all a terrific romp through 19th Century Britain. My only quibble is with the number of times India and French are captured and escape, gain the upper hand only to have it slapped down again (I began to wonder just how long French had been at this spying business anyway) and the ending leaves one a bit up in the air, but it does leave an opening for further spying adventures for India and French.

Having a fondness for the Victorian period, I thoroughly enjoyed Carr's rendering of the time period. Her characterization is superb--not only in India and French, but also the supporting characters. I look forward to future installments and hope to see more of Vincent and Rowena--two characters vital to India's plans and if you want to know more about them, well, then I suggest you run out to the bookstore and grab this up as soon as it hits the shelves in the New Year. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries set in the Victorian era, strong characters (particularly strong female characters), and great writing Four and a half stars out five for terrifice characterization and a writing style that effortlessly carries the reader along to the grand finale.

[Disclaimer: This book was offered to me as an advanced reader copy. It contains uncorrected proofs and the contents of final copy available in the New Year may differ. My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate...This review copy was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.]


Anonymous said...

This sounds really good! Great review :)

Irene Palfy said...

I have that book on my "I wish to read it" list!! (It's a mental list - but it's growing and growing...)