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India BlackIndia Black by Carol K. Carr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

India Black is a whore and she is not ashamed of her profession. She has worked her way off of her back, owns her house, and efficiently runs her establishment as the madam/businesswomen. She is both street-smart and intelligent; having tended to the higher ranks of soldiers and lower ranking government officials she’s picked up some book learning in order to cater to their foreplay idiosyncrasies. Her life was looking pretty good as a madam – that is until one of her regulars goes toes up during his weekly visit. It isn’t too long before Mr. French, a government man of undisclosed job title, shows up to help her dispose of the body. Before India can blink she is engrossed in a Russian-Turk-British triangle of espionage that has her racing across England risking life and limb.
Ms. Carr’s creation of India Black rivals the spunk and determination of Charles Portis’ character Mattie Ross in True Grit – although where Mattie is young and innocent, India is beautiful and worldly. The first person narrative is witty and sharp. The story flows as if you and India are sitting in front of the fireplace having tea and chiseling (I mean nibbling) one of Mrs. Drinkwater’s ginger biscuits while sharing a secret between close friends. Whereas that ability to tell a good story in and of itself is usually enough to make a good read, what contributes to the success of “India Black” is Carr’s balance of world history with a dose of ironic common sense. Reading Carr’s blog, we may find the influence of this balancing act in her Midwest upbringing overshadowed by the cloud of political injustice that clung to her family for over 100 years.
Finally, what appeals most to me about “India Black” is the vocabulary of the prose. While most popular fiction prescribes to the adage that Americans can only read at an eighth-grade level and dares not to challenge us, Carr freely uses words I haven’t seen since studying for the SAT test in high school. It’s a refreshing change to have my brain stimulated while enjoying a fictional novel. Carr writes tantalizing sentences containing such words as profligate, corpulent, and vicissitudes to name a few. And yet the strong vocabulary never seems out of character for our heroine, India.
If you like mysteries…
If you like history…
If you like to think while consuming your fiction…
You must read “India Black” – and I’d wager future offerings from Carol K. Carr are only going to get better.

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