From debut author Allison Montclair comes an engrossing historical mystery novel set in post-war London, The Right Sort of Man.
In a London slowly recovering from World War II, two very different women join forces to launch a business venture in the heart of Mayfair—The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. Miss Iris Sparks, quick-witted and impulsive, and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge, practical and widowed with a young son, are determined to achieve some independence and do some good in a rapidly changing world.
But their promising start is threatened when their newest client is found murdered and the man arrested for the crime is the prospective husband they matched her with. While the police are convinced they have their man, Miss Sparks and Mrs. Bainbridge are not. To clear his name—and to rescue their fledgling operation’s reputation—Sparks and Bainbridge decide to investigate on their own. Little do they know that this will put their very lives at risk.
*BONUS CONTENT: This edition of The Right Sort of Man includes a new introduction from the author and a discussion guide
Set in 1946 London, Montclair's stellar debut and series launch introduces an unlikely pair of detectives. Gwen Bainbridge, whose husband died during WWII, lives with her late husband's parents, who managed to get legal custody of her six-year-old son, Ronnie. Gwen and Iris Sparks, a former operative for British intelligence, run the Right Sort Marriage Bureau. Their innocuous business becomes less so after client Tillie La Salle is stabbed to death shortly after her particulars were provided to Dickie Trower, a shy accountant. Dickie is charged with Tillie's murder, his purported motive anger over the cancellation of their first date. Convinced that the wrong person is behind bars and facing intensely negative press, Gwen and Iris investigate Tillie's death. They soon find plausible alternative motives, including fallout from the dead woman's involvement in the black market and a former beau's jealousy. Both leads are complex, well-developed characters, whose penchant for humorous byplay never comes at the expense of the plot, which resolves itself in a clever fair play reveal. Fans of Maisie Dobbs and Bess Crawford will be delighted.
The Right Sort of Man is an entertaining historical mystery. The author captured post-war London with her vivid descriptions of the bombed out areas, rationing and modes of public transportation (tube, tram, and bus). Numerous items continued to be rationed in England for many years after the war (food, clothes, petrol). I enjoyed Allison Montclair’s writing style with its appealing dialogue and her delightful protagonists. Iris Sparks is an intelligent woman who did special work for the government during the war (which she cannot talk about). Sparks has a unique skill set and is well connected. She thrives on action and has left a string of unhappy beaus in her wake including DS Mike Kinsey. Sparks does love her typewriter though. I especially loved Iris Sparks droll wit. Gwen Bainbridge is a widow with a six year old son and a fascination with Ronald Coleman. Gwen had a hard time after she was notified of her husband’s death. She needed some medical assistance which her in-laws used to grab guardianship of their only grandchild. Gwen is now forced to live with the in-laws to be near her son. Going into business with Iris is her way of obtaining some independence and getting her self-confidence back. When one of their clients is murdered and another accused of the crime, the only way to save their business is to solve the murder themselves. While Iris has the skills for investigating, it is new to Gwen. She soon finds herself enjoying new experiences like riding a tram. I liked the evolution of Gwen’s character. Salvatore “Sally” Danielli was a pleasing addition. He is a complex man with hidden depths (he is working on a play too). There are two mysteries in The Right Sort of Man. One is more complex and dominates the story while the other drifts along in the background (and is simpler). I had a good time following the clues and solving both puzzles. The Right Sort of Man has a great ending. I am hoping there will be more novels featuring this enterprising duo. You will find yourself rooting for Gwen and Sparks in the charming The Right Sort of Man.