The Infidel Stain

The Infidel Stain Book Cover The Infidel Stain
Blake and Avery
Carter, M.J.
In Store Now!

The second installment in the Blake and Avery series, The Infidel Stain is the sequel to The Strangler Vine, which hit our shelves just last year. The Strangler Vine saw William Avery, a young and ambitious recruit of the East India Company stationed in Calcutta in 1837 (much to his chagrin), where he is frustrated in his attempts to ingratiate himself with the ‘better’ parts of society yet dismissive and superior towards the Indian population around him. When he is teamed up with Jeremiah Blake, a notorious ex-solider, fallen from favour, and disgraced, he imagines what little luck he’s had up until this point has evaporated. Blake and Avery are paired on a mission to track down the Thuggee cult, believed to operate in large groups, to surround innocent travellers, win their trust, and then strangle them or slit their throats in the middle of the night.

Jeremiah Blake is a reticent man, and in many ways the opposite of Avery: he distrusts soldiers, officials, anyone with the slightest bit of power. He spends all his time in the slums, and speaks more in the local languages than in English. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of antagonism between the two: Blake can barely stand Avery, the latter being naïve and superior towards the locals. And Avery is suspicious of Blake, having been told by their keeper to watch him closely. Blake is a loose cannon, after all, and has never been known to follow orders with zeal.

While the settings are what catch my attention, it is the characters that keep me interested and invested in the story.

Three years have passed since their Indian adventure, and while both have been struggling to adjust to Victorian England life, they are struggling for very different reasons. Avery is a married man expecting a child, and his family is pressuring him to make connections, to ‘advance himself.’ Blake has become an ‘inquiry agent,’ tasked with finding information among the seedier streets of London. In no way is there relationship repetitive or derivative in this second book. They consistently frustrate each other, follow their own notions, and keep secrets. Throughout the book it is obvious that both their hearts are in the right place, even if their intentions lead them down the wrong paths.

So, once again, Blake and Avery innocently get themselves caught up in matters well beyond their control and comprehension. More than a mystery, The Infidel Stain, like The Strangler Vine before it is a fast-paced adventure story. It is well-written and fascinating, in a nostalgic sort of way.

While the settings are what catch my attention, it is the characters that keep me interested and invested in the story. And this book is rich with characters of different stripes, styles, and motivations. So much so that even Charles Dickens makes a fleeting appearance.  I cannot recommend this book enough.


M. J. Carter is a former journalist and the author of two acclaimed works of nonfiction, Anthony Blunt: His Lives and George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I. She is also the author of a previous Blake and Avery novel: The Strangler Vine.Carter is married with two sons and lives in London.


Rupert McNally
Rupert is a fan of fabulation in the fiction he reads. He mostly reads classics, but also enjoys science-fiction, and a good adventure story. On the non-fiction side he enjoys books on politics, language, and English history.