I have reviewed the second book in the series, India Black and the Widow of Windsor (click here) , and the third book, India Black and the Shadows and Anarchy (click here.) I also interviewed Carol Carr (click here).
Copyright: February 2014 (Berkley) 321 pgs
Series: 4th in Madam of Espionage series
Sensuality: Some adult conversation and innuendo (period euphemisms)
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Espionage
Main Characters: India Black, madam of the London brothel, Lotus House, catering to gentlemen and part-time British Spy
Setting: 1876, London and Scottland
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
This book picks up the immediately after the last book. India and French are barely catching their breath at India's Lotus House after stopping an anarchist group from an act of terrorism. But Colonel Francis Mayhew forwards what appears to be shipping bill to Lotus House. Before French and India can even begin guessing why one of her customers sent work to her place, three brutes bust down her door, steal the envelope, and rough up both her and fellow agent French too. They decided to confront Colonel Mayhew as to why he sent something volitile to India, but they find him dead after what French says was apparent torture. It looks as though they are sucked into more international intrigue without even trying.
To complicate matters even more, Marchioness of Tullibardine is tired of India's badgering letters to get information about her mother...so she shows up on India's doorstep for a visit...along with her dogs - one of which is about to have puppies. The Marchioness takes India's bedroom, accommodates the dogs, begins looking at the finances of Lotus House, and overall sticks her nose into everything. But, she does give India the truth about her mother.
India Black is as strong willed and snarky as ever. She does not get to do as much on her own as she did in the prior book, but it was still a good read. French seems to be even more of a puzzle in this book, which I said in the last book too. Their kinda-sorta-maybe-not quite romance is half comical and half frustrating. The street urchin Vincent is back in this book, and his "women are inferior" comments got to me this time. The Marchioness of Tullibardine is a comical steam-roller. Mrs. Drinkwater, the drunken cook, is a surprise in this one.
We get a good feel for the London Docks and their seamy, dangerous side. We even get a little bit of a rural setting. Each setting seemed brooding in this edition, even the rural, as if the danger was hanging over the land. Quite effective.
The plot was rather simple when looking back, but while in the middle of it, it presented a great ride. Pacing was spot on and kept me reading. India gets some good fighting going in her own right during the climax, which had its delicious thrilling parts. The wrap-up drops a bomb-shell for their next assignment and leaves plenty of questions about what should India do with the information she gained about her mother.
Another entertaining book in the series, with developments for India and her heart ever more at risk with French - whether she admits it or not. Well rounded writing that balances all the elements.
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.