by Carol K. Carr
Berkeley Prime Crime, 2011. 296 pages. Mystery.
When a customer dies (of natural causes) in India Black's place of business, the formidable abbess of the Lotus House brothel has only one mission: to get rid of the evidence and protect her business from scandal. Little does she know that a chance encounter with one of the government's special service agents, known only as French, will lead her to a wild adventure involving kidnap and Russian spies.
I picked this series up on a whim and have not regretted a moment of it. India Black is a truly well-constructed character who has you rooting for her in spite of, or perhaps because of, her profession. She is sharp and resourceful and her interactions with French are ingenious. The mystery is a fun romp, but it is the characters who are the most enticing part of the story.
I hesitated as to whether I could categorize this as a clean read or not. In spite of everything, India is a madam and she is very frank when it comes to discussing her trade. No euphemisms for her! This is her life and trade and she has made her peace with it. However, while the first book does have the most content of the series (that I've read so far), it still is not the graphic content that I've seen in other books. Carr seems less concerned with describing graphic sexual encounters than with creating well-rounded characters.