India Black

By: Carol K. Carr

Series: Madam of Espionage

Book Number: 1

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India Black is the beautiful, young madam of Lotus House, one of the premier brothels in London, that caters to an elite clientele. She's just trying to run her business when Sir Archibald Latham, an official of the British war office, drops dead in her establishment of an apparent heart attack. If word gets out, it could be detrimental to her business, so she contrives to covertly get rid of the body. However, she's caught at her task by a handsome British spy, who goes only by the name of French. Latham had been carrying a case containing sensitive government documents that could have far-reaching political repercussions if the information in them is found by the Russians, so French blackmails India into helping locate the missing case. The two end up on a merry chase around London and eventually all the way to France, trying to recover the stolen documents, while being threatened by Russian spies at every turn, and if they don't get the case back before the Russians are able to spirit it away to St. Petersburg, it could be disastrous. 


India Black is the first full-length book in Carol K. Carr's Madam of Espionage mystery series. It stars India Black, the beautiful young madam of the Lotus House brothel in London, which caters to an elite clientele. One day, Sir Archibald Latham, a regular client and employee of the War Office, has the audacity to drop dead in her establishment, something that could be very bad for business if word got out. Therefore, India contrives to dispose of his body discretely after dark. However, she's caught in the act by a handsome British spy, going simply by the name of French, who works for the Prime Minister. Soon India finds herself kidnapped and taken to have an audience with the Prime Minister himself, who explains that when Latham went to Lotus House, he was in possession of a briefcase containing sensitive political information, which if it got out, could mean the difference between Great Britain being forced to wage war against Turkey (something they don't want) or not. Unfortunately the case went missing from the brothel, but they've tracked it to the Russian embassy and believe that India, using her skills as a lady of the night, could help them get it back. India isn't exactly eager to do so, but after French applies a little blackmail, she's persuaded to do as they've asked. The mission proves to be anything but easy, though, with India and French ending up on a madcap adventure all over England and beyond in an effort to recover the information before the Russians can get it out of the country and back to St. Petersburg.

The entire book is told from India's first-person perspective. We aren't given her exact age, but she's described as still young and beautiful. She's much more than just a pretty face, though, also being quite the good businesswoman, knowing exactly how to keep her girls in line and run a tight establishment. A practical, no-nonsense kind of woman, she oozes confidence and assertiveness, and doesn't suffer fools lightly. India proves to have an adventurous side as well. Although French twists her arm a little to gain her initial cooperation, once embroiled in the caper, she's all in, taking it very seriously and not giving up. I was amused by her keeping a gun in her purse that she knows how to use and impressed with her ability to take care of herself with self-defense moves that keep the bad guys on their toes. All in all, she was an admirable heroine who isn't half-bad at the espionage game despite that not being her area of expertise.

India's primary cohorts are French and Vincent. French--just French--as he chooses not to reveal any more about himself, works for the government in some sort of spy or "fixer" capacity and reports directly to the Prime Minister with his main loyalty being to that office no matter who holds it, not unlike U. S. Secret Service. He's brave and resourceful, a great partner for India in their mission. Vincent is a street kid who India goes to on occasion for help with covert things. It's him that she calls upon to help her remove Latham's body, which of course, doesn't go as planned. Vincent is loyal to India, though, and proves far better at the espionage game than some of the actual spies in Her Majesty's employ. Of course, there are the main Russian baddies, Ivanov and Oksana, who lead India and French on a merry chase across England and keep jockeying with them for the upper hand.

I've noticed that India Black doesn't really have spectacular ratings, but not having read any reviews yet, I'm not entirely sure why. If the story had any weakness, I'd say it would be in the characterizations. I would have been interested in learning more of India's background and how she came to be in her current position, and while having French be a little mysterious was rather fun, I wouldn't have minded knowing more about him as well. Otherwise, though, I personally quite enjoyed it. Perhaps that was due in part to Carol K. Carr's writing style reminding me a lot of Diana Gabaldon's. In fact, if I didn't know their books were authored by different people, I might think them one and the same. India in a lot of ways reminded me of Claire Fraser from Outlander, too. If these two women were real, I think they might actually be great friends. The one big difference, though, is that this book has no romance of any sort despite the cover blurb hinting at some. Although one character ruminates that he thinks India is attracted to French, she vehemently denies it, instead insisting that he annoys her. Whether that might change in future books of the series, I have no idea, but I'm not holding my breath for it to happen. The story is called a mystery, but there's very little actual mystery to solve, as the government officials know what became of the case. Therefore, it's more of a suspense story, full of action and adventure as India and French try their level best to get the case back with things often not going their way. Overall, I found India Black to be a fun, madcap escapade that kept me entertained, and I look forward to continuing the series.


Carol K. Carr @ GoodReads