by Carol K. Carr
Cover Artist: Alan Ayers
Review by Mel Jacob
Berkley Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425238660
Date: 04 January 2011 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Abbess (madam) India Black and French, an aide to the prime minister, take readers on a breakneck romp though Victorian England in pursuit of two Russian agents and documents stolen from a War Office official. They and street urchin, Vincent, leave winded horses, dead bodies, and injured men along the way. Carol K. Carr's debut novel India Black, a Madam of Espionage Mystery provides plenty of laughter and thrills to keep readers turning pages.
India calls herself a whore who rose from the ranks to own her brothel, Lotus House, and commands high fees for her girls. Comfortable, she enjoys a good life until Bowser, aka Sir Archibald Latham of the British War Office, dies during a romp with Arabella, one of India's girls. When India with Vincent's help attempts to dispose of the body, the mysterious French steps in and takes over. He demands Latham's missing dispatch case. India looks for it, but discovers both the case and Arabella missing.
French asks India about her background, but she says little. His questions are those astute readers would like answered. Since this novel is the first of a series, one can hope they will come in time.
In India, French, and Vincent, Carr has crafted characters strong enough to carry a series. Provided the reader is willing to suspend disbelief, India's adventures will amuse and delight. Some might fault Carr for spending too much time on the political situation, but India's views make it interesting. Hints of romance appear, but Carr keeps French and India at arms length except when the villains truss them together. India also manages to put French on his back more than once.
Modern strong heroines might well aspire to India as a model they seldom reach. Her sense of humor, too often missing from other novels, adds to the enjoyment. She suffers injury, but keeps going with her trusty English Bulldog (a gun). She's not above using street tactics against attackers and her fist packs a wallop sufficient to fell even a burly man.
The next novel tentative titled India Black and the Widow of Windsor will appear in either 2011 or 2012.