Book Review: India Black

India Black by Carol K. Carr, Madame of Espionage #1

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, seducing spies and embarking on midnight sleigh rides, not to mention ignoring the attraction she starts to feel for her handsome and exasperating British co-conspirator.

One particular genre that I have been enjoying a lot from Titan has been the Sherlock Holmes books. I am eagerly awaiting each release one after the other, but what to do in the meantime? When I was send over the request to review India Black I knew just what I had to do! Read this series. The synopsis of India Black reveals that it is directly up the alley of Sherlock Holmes. However when I read the first sentence and subsequently the first chapter it soon came to show that it is a bit different from your average detective book, as India Black hasn't a standard occupation. India Black is a great spin on the classic male detective lead type of books, it's a definite recommendation. 

There are opening sentences and there are opening sentences and you have India Black. My name is India Black. I am a whore. That is how India Black opens, soon followed a very strong narrative that kindly mentions that if you are looking for a book that is oriented towards the direction of her previous occupation, you will not find it. Carol K. Carr directly introduces the strong personality of India Black and one book quickly came to mind that inspired the same thing, A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. Writing in the first perspective can either work wonders or can be a disaster, in the case of India Black it's definitely the former. She is not your average lady and doesn't hesitate to say just what is on her mind. Though some might find the introduction a bit to confronting, it does give you the most precise picture of just who India Black is, one feisty lady not to be trifled with. 

The story of India Black opens up first with the personal account of just what the story entails, told in the first person, which later centers around the events that caused this retelling. India Black is just minding her own business, running her brothel Lotus House, where men and women can seek relieve. Business hasn't been booming but India isn't faring bad at all. She has a stream of regular customers, but all of a sudden one, who goes by the name of Mr. Bowser turns up dead in one of the bedrooms of her girls... She cannot use this type of publicity and starts making arrangements to get rid of the Mr. Bowser's body. India can only do so much on her own so in order to get rid of the body she calls in the help of a streetboy named Vincent, together with him India tries to get rid of the body, yes exactly tries, as another party have also set their mind on Mr. Bowser. This party, the British government, which is represented Mr. French, first explains that Mr. Bowser actually is Sir Archibald Latham a well reputed man, who was tightly involved with the British War Office and had several highly confidential plans under his arms. Mr. French insists of getting the things that Archibald Latham carried on him, in the case of India she only knows about his wallet and not the case he was carrying. This case contained sensitive information that must not fall into the wrong hands... After this action packed introduction India finds herself thrown in a plot together with Mr. French to retrieve the information that was stolen from Archibald Latham. In their quest India gets much more than she had bargained for, of course her life wasn't boring to start for but going from madam to international espionage is quite the carrier change. 

As I already mentioned the story is told from the perspective of India Black and the different characters that you meet are told more from her opinion. As I already mentioned above I enjoyed reading the adventures of India Black. Her character is strongly voiced and this readily creates an certain sense around her character, that you don't mess with her. Even though she is very strong it doesn't go towards the dominating side, yes she always wants to get her right but when she sees she is wrong she does give in and not stubbornly continues in the wrong direction. Showing the character of India in such a way makes her a great protagonist of the story. Several action- reaction events which involved India were to be expected but India's character can come out quite unexpected! As for the other characters that you meet in India Black the British agents Mr. French is actually quite interesting to read about he pops up all of a sudden and directly involves himself with India. One small thing that adds quite a lot to the story is that we never get to know Mr. French's first name, it might be small but does leave you wondering what more mysteries this character has, we only learn that he is an agent and set to retrieve the documents. Last but not least was the help that India called in to dispose of the body of Archibald. Vincent, a street urchin, again one character of who you do not learn all the fine details yet, just what you need to know. You can clearly see that the focus in India Black is on India but this doesn't provide any imbalances with the other, secondary, characters. Carol K. Carr nicely balances their focus in the story.    

If you had thought that the start of the story was action packed, wait till you reach the half way mark of the book and more in particular the last bit. In the end of the book Carol K. Carr readily throws the story into a non stop rollercoaster ride, if you add this up with the idea of the story and India Black, madam turned agent and the Victorian setting it really inspires this grand feeling to the book. 

India Black kicks off an rollercoaster ride of a series. If you are looking for the next thing in a funny and witty detective, India Black is exactly what you need. Carol K. Carr has created an exciting entry in the detective genre, where most is ruled by male protagonists and mainly fall back towards Sherlock Holmes, India Black, madam turned British agent offers a nice and fresh perspective. Carol K. Carr shows that she can write just as an exciting story and does this at breakneck pace, but not having to sacrifice any of the details in building her own Victorian setting. From the start she managed to pull me into her story, what better opening sentence than "My name is India Black. I am a whore" ? India Black so far is the first book in the Madame of Espionage series books two: India Black and the Widow of Windsor and three: India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy are out now by Titan Books. 


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