Monday, January 2, 2012

INDIA BLACK by Carol K. Carr

A Madam of Espionage Mystery
Publisher: Berkley
Date published: January 4, 2011
ISBN: 9780425238660
Trade Paperback
Reviewed by Gina
Obtained by Publisher

India Black is a madam and the owner of a brothel called Lotus House. She runs a fairly tight ship, keeping close track on her supplies and girls. While not with the tippling done by her cook, Mrs. Drinkwater, India does appreciate her loyalty.

French is in the employ of the government, specifically the prime minister. It is duty to protect the position as much as it is keeping England secure. His methods are not always orthodox or perhaps the most ethical but England must come first.

When a member of the War Office, nicknamed Bowser, manages to die while engaged in an evening’s romp with one of India’s ladies, to avoid any scandal, India seeks to get rid of the body. Turning to a street urchin by the name of Vincent she is almost home free when French comes upon India. It appears Bowser was carrying a document that could destroy England. French demands India help him find Bowser’s missing briefcase and the document. When they return to Lotus House not only is the briefcase containing the document gone; missing as well is one of India’s girls. Before long India is summoned before the prime minister and tasked with getting the brief case and its inflammatory document back. The clock is running and the players are deadly and determined.

In the past few years I’ve become a big fan of Victorian mysteries and novels of suspense. I eagerly dug into INDIA BLACK by Carol K. Carr anticipating a fast paced, action packed read. I was disappointed at every turn. Ms. Carr begins with an interesting prologue that warns the reader about what INDIA BLACK the book is and is not. She cautions her readers that if they are looking for sex, they aren’t going to find it in the pages of this book. Then again, is it a warning or a dare to read it? I wondered if it was a challenge to the reader that if he or she didn’t read it all the way through they were somehow lacking—that any problem to be found with the story lay with the reader and not the writer telling a good story.

I’m generally not a fan of first person writing but the Victorian suspenses are generally written with that voice. If it is done well a reader can feel as if he or she is part of the story, solving the crime right there beside the heroine. I had a hard time with the first person point of view in this book. What mostly threw me off were the constant asides, interspersed in the text inside parentheses. In the beginning there were a few but as the story went on there were more and more and each time it pulled me out of the story. It felt as if the author were trying to move to third person point of view but felt she had to stick with first person. The technique did not work for me.

Even if a first person point of view isn’t all that well done, if I like the characters I can enjoy the story. I didn’t care much for India and not because of her profession—she wasn’t a very likeable character. French came across mostly as a cardboard cut out who was there only to give India a foil.

INDIA BLACK has espionage but no mystery and I didn’t find much excitement. Readers who like to see an underdog come out on top will find this book a decent read.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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