Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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

Once again, Carol K. Carr takes us to Victorian England in the latest Madam of Espionage mystery, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy. And, it's those details of Victorian London that bring this book to life.

It's 1877, and India Black, owner of Locus House brothel, is bored. It's been a while since she's been involved in an investigation for the British government. After being blackmailed by French, a special agent to prime minister Disraeli, India had worked with him as a secret agent. However, as she tells in this latest story, she's soon caught up in a new case. Extremists from France, Russia, Italy and Germany have fled their own countries, ending up in England where they are killing aristocrats in order to attempt to bring down the government. Disraeli asks her to infiltrate one of the anarchist cells that "played with gunpowder and dynamite". It will take all of India's ingenuity to stay undercover, while also managing her own business.

While the story is interesting, it bogs down in details of the anarchists' meetings, getting a little wordy at times. However, Carr excels at the details of ordinary life in Victorian London. Her description of a rainy spring in the city is surprising. "You might think that London could do with a bath and sheets of rain are just the thing to accomplish that task, but you'd be forgetting the voluminous coils of smoke that issue from every hearth and home and the reeking fumes from the factories. When the rain comes down in this city, it comes down as brown sludge, ruining bonnets and cloaks and covering the houses with a layer of silt." Not quite what I expected in a description, but probably right on the mark.

And, Carr succeeds brilliantly in creating her own Artful Dodger in the character of Vincent, a street urchin who runs errands for India, and has his own gang of street-smart kids that he can call on for assistance. Vincent is cunning, courageous, and adds humor to every story. Whenever the story slows down, it only takes an appearance by Vincent to enliven it.

As I said, the story of the anarchists becomes a little tedious, but the descriptions of London and the character of Vincent add life to the latest book in Carr's series, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy.

Carol K. Carr's website is www.carolkcarr.com

Indian Black and the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425255957 (paperback), 314p.

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