India Black by Carol K. Carr

India Black – owner of a brothel coerced into being a spy for the British Government. I don’t know if liked her, but I found her fascinating.

The year is 1876. It’s winter in London. Victoria is queen and Disraeli is prime minister. Sir Archibald Latham of the War department dies in India’s brothel, the Lotus House. As she is disposing of the body – bad for business, you know – she is discovered by French who works for the PM. India is basically blackmailed into helping him retrieve documents that Latham had with him and that have disappeared. India falls headfirst into the deadly game of cat and mouse with the Russians.

India is one of a kind. She’s seen a lot in her life, knows that London is a tough city. She’s cynical and carries a gun that she is more than capable of using. She’s a businesswoman at heart, taking care of her tarts so that she can charge a fair penny for their services. But more than that, adventure excites her, the danger.

I can’t help it; a lifetime of fending for myself in the streets of London, scraping for crusts and customers, dodging blows from the peelers and attempts to reform me by assorted God wallahs, has left me with a rather jaundiced view of authority in all its guises. India Black answers to no man, no matter how attractive he might be. Of course, that was only part of the reason I’d laced on a pair of sturdy boots and commandeered a cab for a drive through one of the worst snowstorms I could remember. I’m a sporting woman by nature; even my line of work requires a calculating heart and a bold spirit. I’m not ashamed to confess that I’d become caught-up in the game, thrilling at the chase, and I wanted to be in on the kill. (pg. 182)

She has a truly unique voice. She may be afraid in certain situations, but she’s never going to let you know. She takes what comes and does the best she can in the circumstances. She’s sexy and uses that to her advantage.

The story’s kind of like a James Bond movie set in Victorian London, except the woman is much more than just a side-kick, love interest. She’s the star. Bond would of course be French, who is willing to chase the Russians to France and beyond if he needs to, and always has another weapon hiding somewhere on his person. There’s definitely an attraction between him and India, and the dialogue is pitch perfect.

I really enjoyed this historical spy novel, at least that’s how I’m categorizing it. India is definitely one of the few truly outstanding characters I’ve met this year.

The Giveaway:

I’ve got one copy of India Black to giveaway, thanks to the author. To enter just leave a comment below by January 12. I will choose a random winner January 13. Sorry, but this one’s open to the US and Canada only.

In the meantime, you can always pre-order it at Amazon, an Indie bookstore, or The Book Depository.

Madam of Espionage #1
296 pages
Will be published January 4, 2011 by Berkley Prime Crime

4 out of 5 stars

Challenges: 100+

I received my copy from the author for review and the above is my honest opinion.