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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

India Black and the Gentleman Thief (A Madam of Espionage Mystery, #4)

India Black and the Gentleman Thief - Carol K. Carr

I love this series.  I look forward to each new book when it comes out, and the novella's in-between aren't bad either.

 

India Black is a brothel owner and, after an unfortunate incident involving a dead customer in the first book, a spy for her majesty, Queen Victoria.  India Black and the Gentleman Thief picks up minutes after India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy with a mysterious envelope being delivered to India's brothel, to be picked up by one of her customers.  India and French have barely caught their breath from chasing anarchists; suddenly three brutes are beating the tar out of both of them and stealing the envelope.  Of course, India had already opened the envelope and read the contents.  So kicks off the next investigation for India and French.

 

I think India is a great character.  The book is first person POV, with occasional comments made directly to the reader.  India is telling this story and she's going to tell it her way.  She's brutally honest with herself, and everyone else, about what she is, who she is, the elasticity of her morals, her iron grip on her independence and she is neither defensive nor shameful nor apologetic about any of it.  Thank god.  She owns the choices she's made and the life she's built and her clarity makes her a much stronger character.

 

French is the requisite gentleman in this play; smart, gorgeous, public-school educated (Eton, if I remember correctly), well-bred.  He plays the straight man to India's snark and sass.  He's also the perfect romantic foil for India; there's attraction and sometimes innuendo, but also obstacles (of course!).  These obstacles (which belong only to French - India doesn't know the meaning of the word) have kept things simmering along for 4 books; it feels inevitable that they'll end up at least in bed, but the reader isn't strung out or teased by the author along the way.  Progress but no back-tracking.  Also, the romance is never front-and-center. Very nice.

 

The setting is Victorian London, and I'm not even so qualified as to call myself a history buff, so I can't speak of the accuracy of Ms. Carr's writing as to setting, use of anachronism's, etc.  She does use what I'm assuming is the vernacular of the time period and there are one or two words I'm curious to look up; a few more I pulled meaning for from the context.  Accurate or not, reading these books gives me a sense of a darker, grimier London that smells bad.

 

I didn't rate this particular book higher because the plot left me less than gripped.  I'm fine with these being called "mysteries" although they aren't, strictly speaking, murder mysteries.  The reader is along for the ride while India and French resolve matters of country and queen, both domestic and international.  This particular case's resolution felt anti-climatic.  Sort of.  There's a terrific showdown at the end, but by the time that occurs, there aren't any real surprises about who the bad guys are.  They are named/identified in a very anticlimactic conversation - then the showdown occurs some scenes later.  It felt...weird, for lack of a better word, but we might chalk it up to unrealised expectations on my part.  In addition, India has sought answers about her family background throughout the previous 3 books and she gets all of her answers in this one. It made for a very full book; a little too full.  I felt like the same goals could have been accomplished with a bit less chaos (but it wouldn't have been as amusing, either).

 

Still, I had a great time reading this book and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys historic fiction that doesn't take itself too seriously.