Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book review: Of Madams and Sneaky Russians

When I began this blog, I made a point of reviewing books that I liked and had a few interviews with authors, too. I'd like to get back to what I called Thriller Thursday, and I want to start with a book I read over Christmas.

Now, it's no surprise that I like mystery and thriller novels, and I have a very soft spot for historical suspense (Eric Ambler and Alan Furst are particular favorites).

Well, in that vein I found a new author: Carol Carr, and her first novel is called INDIA BLACK. *

Her book has only just been released and is billed as "A Madam Of Espionage Mystery." You may have no idea what the means, but I suggest you buy a copy and find out.

The main character, India Black, runs a brothel in London. So right there, you have a reason to read because you know something interesting is going to happen.

The plot revolves around her being coerced by the Prime Minister and his people to help in retrieving some documents stolen from a customer of hers, while he was visiting her establishment. Bring on the adorably disgusting street urchin, the knife-wielding Cossacks, and an ice-cold and ruthless servant of the government whom India can't quite figure out. And isn't sure she wants to.

I really think this is one of the most original concepts I've come across in a long time, and Ms. Carr pulls it off (pun intended) with ease and style. Just now, I sat looking through the book for examples of her use of language, but singling one out does a disservice to the rest. You can take my word for it that the lady knows how to write, and India Black's narration is priceless: world-wary (and weary), sarcastic, and self-deprecating, but with a strong thread of moral propriety and loyalty (that she does her best to hide). Her other characters are also wonderfully alive, though don't get too attached to all of them, many are not who they appear to be. Except the very nasty ones.

Ms. Carr has also done an incredible job of weaving history (not the yawn-inducing, school-room stuff) into the book, making the names you might recognize (like Disraeli and Gladstone) come alive. Hilariously alive, actually.

So, bottom line, if you enjoy historical caper/mystery novels, I highly recommend INDIA BLACK by Carol Carr. I liked it so much I've asked her to do an interview for the blog, and I'll be posting that in the next few days.

* [Note: do NOT judge this book by its cover. I can see what they were going for, but in my opinion it is too romancy. This book is not that.]


  1. That pic at the top of your blog is great! Appreciate the book reviews.

  2. Happy New Year. A nice book review but I have not read the book. So, I cannot say much about it. I am just wondering about the title, INDIA BLACK. I wonder if this name is common in England?


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