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by Allison Montclair
St. Martin’s Press , June 2021
352 pages
ISBN: 1250750326

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge own the Right Sort Marriage Bureau, a matchmaking service in 1940s London, but perhaps they should add “Detective Agency” to the end of that name.

In this current outing of the Sparks and Bainbridge series, the women start out with good intentions: Mr. Daile has come to them to find a love match. But the man, kindly as he is, seems to be hiding something—and Gwen finds it suspicious that he turns up as a gardener along her neighborhood street, an upscale part of London where she lives with her in-laws.

But things go from suspicious to deadly after there is a murder and then two kidnappings, and the women must call upon the help of some unsavory acquaintances.

While there's definitely a mystery—more than one—in this novel, it's also a look at how women were circumscribed in those times. Gwen is a recent widow, her husband having died in the war. She continues to live with her in-laws, but they have custody of Ronnie, her six-year-old son, with the excuse that she is not mentally competent. Shortly after her husband's death, Gwen, enveloped in grief, spent some time in the sanatorium. But even now, with all her faculties intact and running a successful business with Iris, her father-in-law, newly returned from Africa, is trying to run her life. That includes a decision to send her young son away to a school—and constrain her financially as well. But Gwen has grown strong, and she will fight her incalcitrant, powerful father-in-law if she needs to.

Iris is the opposite of Gwen, more streetwise, with a gangster boyfriend and a somewhat shady past. Yet the women work in perfect harmony. Author Allison Montclair writes these women with such caring and detail that readers will care as much what happens to Gwen and Iris as to the mysteries being solved. The mysteries, though, are very much part of the story. The novel is intricately layered, with clues cleverly hidden.

Although this is the third book in a series, it can be read on its own. That being said, you might just get hooked on the series, in which case there will be more stories waiting for you.

Lourdes Venard is an independent editor who divides her time between New York and Maui.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, May 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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