Review: India Black by Carol K Carr
When Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, Madam India Black is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried.
Blackmailed into recovering the missing documents by the British spy known as French, India finds herself dodging Russian agents-and the attraction she starts to feel for the handsome conspirator.
One would think that since I collected over 100 books at BEA in May I wouldn’t need to even visit a bookstore during my stay in New York. Yeah, like that would happen. But what to get? Following my ‘if you get free books try something new’ policy I decided to check out something new in the mystery department. And there, right next to a few old favorites I saw India Black by Carol K Carr. The synopsis sounded intriguing but I nearly laughed out loud when I read the first line of the book’s preface:
“My name is India Black. I am a whore.”
I had to have it. Overweight suitcases be damned!
India Black is in fact more of a retired whore – she is now the Madame of the Lotus House brothel in 1876 London, managing other ‘tarts’ and working on her pension fund. The story is told from her perspective and India’s dry often sarcastic storytelling make for a wonderful read.
One of India’s… employees loses a client but sadly Sir Archibald Latham didn’t have the decency to die at home, leaving India with a body to get rid of as police tend to frown upon brothels.
And this is where things get complicated. While India tries to get rid of Sir Archibald, she is interrupted by a mysterious gentleman – one who offers to help her finish the job, then asks for a certain file – one that India knows nothing about.
Soon India is embroiled in political intrigue, secret agents, Christian reformers, Russian diplomacy, Disraeli and Gladstone. Which leads us back to the mysterious gentleman – Only known as French – French works for prime minister Disraeli and together with others within the government is trying to retrieve files that were in the keeping of the now deceased Sir Archibald.
Disraeli enlists (kidnap, enlist what’s the difference really?) India and her special expertise to help get the missing files back and what the reader is left with is a rollicking (love that word) tale.
This is Carol K Carr’s first book and it left me with that wonderful feeling of good things to come. Ms. Carr’s heroine is well written – yes, the outlook might occasionally be a bit too sunny and idealized for what the world of a 19th century prostitute would have been like but Carr’s and India’s narration is a humorous one. This is not Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders or a Dickensian look at society. This is a humorous historical mystery – and a good one at that.
India does get herself into some pretty crazy situations but for some reason – it works. And while there might be a few points in the story where it drags a little the other characters including French the mysterious agent and Vincent the dirty smelly yet endearing street urchin make the plot go right back on track.
By the end of the book French and India’s respective histories are still a mystery – one I can’t wait for Ms. Carr to unfold in the next book in the series which is set to be released in October.