Allison Montclair is back with another installment of her Sparks & Bainbridge series, The Unkept Woman. In case you’ve missed my previous reviews, Sparks & Bainbridge books are historical mysteries set immediately after WWII in London with a hefty dose of espionage tossed in. They’re clever and page turners. Soon I will be setting up a page of books and series that I highly recommend and this series will definitely be part of that recommendation!
Before I move on to the book review, I want to mention that this evening as I was preparing for the review, I Googled Allison Montclair and discovered that that is a pen name for author Alan Gordon who has a series of medieval mysteries that I am probably now going to be adding to my TBR pile as well as a werewolf book that will be the first one I read. How exciting to discover these books! Funnily enough, Allison doesn’t look at all the way I imagined her. 😁😉
One last thing, for anyone who may have read Nancy Drew novels, doesn’t this cover make you think of those?
Blurb: Allison Montclair returns with the fourth Sparks & Bainbridge mystery, The Unkept Woman: London, 1946, Miss Iris Sparks–currently co-proprietor of the Right Sort Marriage Bureau–has to deal with aspects of her past exploits during the recent war that have come back around to haunt her.
The Right Sort Marriage Bureau was founded in 1946 by two disparate individuals – Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge (whose husband was killed in the recent World War) and Miss Iris Sparks who worked as an intelligence agent during the recent conflict, though this is not discussed. While the agency flourishes in the post-war climate, both founders have to deal with some of the fallout that conflict created in their personal lives. Miss Sparks finds herself followed, then approached, by a young woman who has a very personal connection to a former paramour of Sparks. But something is amiss and it seems that Iris’s past may well cause something far more deadly than mere disruption in her personal life. Meanwhile, Gwendolyn is struggling to regain full legal control of her life, her finances, and her son – a legal path strewn with traps and pitfalls.
Together these indomitable two are determined and capable and not just of making the perfect marriage match.
Is there anything better than opening a book just knowing that for the next few hours you are going to be swept up in a page turner with interesting characters, history, and twisty plot? The Unkept Woman by Allison Montclair is that type of book in a series that maintains its momentum even in this, its fourth installment.
In The Unkept Woman, Gwen and Iris deal with their complicated personal lives while determining why various people are tailing them and who murdered a Polish spy in Iris’ flat. Filled with twists that draw information from Iris and her colleagues’ wartime activity and take her to a Polish settlement, the story remains fast-paced even during what might seem like a lull as Gwen takes her son and group to a show highlighting upcoming consumerism.
As usual, Montclair’s writing is smooth, the plot intricate, and the characterizations always building. As we learn new things about Gwen and Iris, they too learn knew things about themselves, allowing them to change during the course of the novel, or at least grow.
If you’re new to the series and wondering if you could start with The Unkept Woman, you could but you’d lose an awful lot of Gwen and Iris’ background not to mention the number of past and present love interests and characters who’ve recently appeared on the scene. Anyway, the entire series is so much fun, especially if you like smart, sharp dialogue and twisting plots that you’d be missing out if you started with The Unkept Woman.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.