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

India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr is the latest Madam of Espionage mystery set in Victorian London (available February 5, 2013).

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…

Huzzah! India Black is back and not a moment too soon. I’ve missed her sardonic wit and her unique view of Victorian London. In India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy, India’s feeling a bit restless. It’s been a few months since her last adventure at Balmoral, saving Queen Victoria from a group of Scottish nationalists. The weather has been even more miserable than usual in London:

This spring, the citizens of the Big Smoke were being treated to daily deluges from the heavens. Thick clouds rolled overhead, and the crack of thunder punctuated every conversation…When rain comes down in this city, it comes down in brown sludge ruining bonnets and cloaks covering the houses with a layer of silt….The stench was overpowering; the whole city smelled fetid and sour, like a vast sewer.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the whores at The Lotus House, India’s establishment, are up in arms because they’ve had no customers due to the weather, and Mrs. Drinkwater, the worst cook in London, is in danger of drinking up all of India’s profits. So when she’s asked to meet Prime Minister Disraeli, India is more than ready for a new adventure. Revolt has spread across Europe and reached the shores of England—anarchists are assassinating lords and earls, one by one. Her assignment, should she chose to accept it, is to infiltrate the group of anarchists responsible for the attacks, the sinister Dark Legion.

For the first time India must attempt a mission on her own. All her previous meetings had been organized by the rakishly handsome spy French. Now she’s determined to prove that she has the right stuff, but India fears she may have bit off more than she can chew when she discovers she has to spend time in one of the worst slums in London, the Seven Dials near Covent Garden. 

Sagging doors and rotting window frames adorned the houses, and the ground floor shops did a listless business in bruised fruit, old clothes and broken furniture. The brothel itself was no better than the rest of the neighborhood, housed in a decrepit building of smoke-fouled brick.

In French’s absence, India has to rely on the skills of an odiferous street Arab named Vincent. Her first task is liberating a French tart named Martine, who has connections to the Dark Legion, from the bawdy house of one Mother Edding who is none too happy to lose her best whore. 

Mother Edding charged through my study door like a Jersey cow whose calf I had taken for weaning. She was a stout old bawd, with a Falstaffian girth and a coarse grey moustache fit for a sergeant major.   “I’ve come for my girl,” she said. The bass voice in the hall had belonged to her. This was not reassuring.

Once India has dispatched Mother Edding back to the Seven Dials with a candlestick, she then has to convince her new employee of her credentials as a budding anarchist, providing information that can help the Dark Legion. Only when her information leads to the bombing of a government building, is India allowed to meet the masterminds behind the Dark Legion—including a darkly handsome Frenchman named Julian Bonnaire, a weepy Russian named Flerko, and a character named Markov—at the aptly named pub The Bag O’Nails.

Much to India’s vexation, French is also attempting to infiltrate the same organization. As they join forces to take down the Dark Legion, India and French are forced to confront not only their attraction to each other, but also an old enemy. But infiltrating the Dark Legion is not India’s only mission. When she’s not fending off repeated attempts on her life, India is searching for details about her late mother. Since her old employer, the Marchioness of Kilibride, proves uncooperative India seeks out her mother’s former madam whose tidbit of information leads her to the one person she never expected. And she finally learns French’s first name.

India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy is another rollicking page turner from the clever mind of Carol K. Carr filled with witty dialogue and historical detail complete with rogues and villains straight out of a Dickens novel. I can’t wait to see what adventures India and French get up to next.  

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Elizabeth Kerri Mahon loves to write about Scandalous Women and the men that loved them. Her first book, Scandalous Women, was published by Perigee Books in March 2011. Visit her at scandalouswoman.blogspot.com.

Read all posts by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon for Criminal Element.

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