Review: India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr

Friday, March 15, 2013
Title: India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy
Author: Carol K. Carr
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
Series: Madam of Espionage #3
Pages: 320 (ARC edition)
Published: February 2013
Source: received for review from publishers
Rating: 5/5 

In Victorian London, India Black has all the attributes a high-class madam needs to run a successful brothel--wit, beauty, and an ability to lie with a smile. Luckily for Her Majesty's Government, all these talents also make her a first-rate spy...

India Black, full-time madam and occasional secret agent, is feeling restless, when one of Disraeli's men calls on her to meet the prime minister--alone. Even though all her previous meetings have been organized by the rakishly handsome spy French, it's been decided this is a mission India must attempt on her own.

Revolt has spread across Europe and reached the shores of England--anarchists have begun assassinating lords and earls, one by one. Now India must infiltrate the ranks of the underground group responsible for those attacks, the sinister Dark Legion. To stop their dread plot, India will go from the murkiest slums of London to the highest levels of society, uncovering secrets that threaten her very existence...

Three books and one novella in, and I am just as big a fan of India Black and her adventures as I was at the beginning. Perhaps even more so, because India, Vincent, French and their exploits just get more outlandish,  and more humorous as they go on. Not one to be afraid of Russian spies, Scottish assassins, or as in the latest, European anarchists, India's latest venture in the name of Queen and country is just as action-packed and fun as I have learned to expect from Carol K. Carr. I laughed, gasped, and turned pages as quickly as I could make myself race through the pages. Three books in, and this is a series that is as strong as ever. 

India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy works equally well as part of the Madam of Espionage series or as a standalone novel. Though some events reference the earlier novels, those aren't major and can be easily figured out. The third novel's plot is independent to the novel and its twists and surprises will encourage new readers to seek out the first two books, India Black and India Black and the Widow of Windsor. It also helps that India herself dispatches brief summaries of her earlier missions early on in the narrative for anyone joining the show out of sequence.

Here, India is just the same as always - sardonic and wry, full of her trademark self-confidence and witty retorts. ("Appearances can be deceiving," [He] intoned. "Yes, they can. For example, I wouldn't have taken you for a gent who uses cliches. Or, if you do, I'd expect you to spout them in Latin.") On her first solo assignment from "Dizzy" without French's reassuring and vexing presence, India finds herself in uncharted waters - facing down fanatics as well as rival, and cunning, madams. With her trustworthy and filthy sidekick, Vincent, Carr doesn't miss a beat in this fourth story featuring London's most infamous and capable madame. India changes but little over the course of the novel; instead, Carr slowly and subtly reveals the hidden past and inner complexity that governs India's personality. 

Ferreting out the group of exiled and trigger-happy anarchists is India's prime motive and the idea that drives the majority of the plot, but there are some minor subplots that longtime fans of the series will cheer to see involved. With the main mission a bit slow going initially, with India stuck between a street smart new lead and an overzealous Inspector from Scotland Yard, Carr slightly expands the focus of the novel. The mystery behind who India's mom was - and who knew her - is touched on more than ever before - to a shocking revelation. And even the lighter-hearted and long-running secret of French's first name isn't ignored, either.  

Fun, funny, exciting and full of Carr's trademark wit and surprises, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy is a more-than-worthy new addition to this wonderful series. Another book that I was granted an digital ARC of, this joins the rank of "books I need to buy ASAP." It's compelling, hard to put down, charming, and full of that amazing chemistry between India and her partner(s). Carr proves (and hints even further) that she's got more in store for our stalwart and savvy narrator.  My only question is when is book four due out and who do I have to beg for a copy? If you start one historical mystery series, let it be this one. You won't be disappointed.

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