Monday, July 25, 2022

The Unkept Woman by Allison Montclair

First Line: The black Wolseley roared down Welbeck Street and came screeching to a halt behind the two patrol cars double-parked at Number 51.
For Gwendolyn Bainbridge and Iris Sparks, owners of the Right Sort Marriage Bureau, it seems as though their pasts simply refuse to leave them alone. Gwen, whose beloved husband was killed during the war, is still fighting her in-laws to have control of her life and the life of her son. In Iris's case, her work as an intelligence agent is coming back to haunt her.
Iris finds herself being followed and then approached by a young woman who has a very personal connection with one of Iris's former lovers. But something just doesn't add up in the woman's story, and Iris finds out that her past could be very dangerous indeed.


I fell in love with Allison Montclair's Sparks & Bainbridge historical mysteries from the very first one, The Right Sort of Man, and I'm happy to say that my affair with these two continues in this fourth book, The Unkept Woman. As usual, the wit and humor sparkle, beginning with the wordplay in the title itself. Normally, when I think of the word "unkept", I think of something that's messy or untidy, but that's not how it's being used here. Sparks and Bainbridge are two women who aren't being "kept" by any man. They are two women from totally different backgrounds who are learning how to live their lives on their own terms without needing to rely on anyone else, and I love being an observer on their journey.
The Unkept Woman delves deeper into Iris Sparks' background as an intelligence officer during World War II. Some of her associates are proving to be hazardous to her health, and this is all exacerbated by the fact that the British intelligence community is now having to change its focus from the Nazis to the Soviets, who are everywhere in London, sticking their noses into every dark corner in an attempt to gather information.
While Sparks is trying to navigate her past, Bainbridge is showing us the ins and outs of trying to regain control of her future, of her own life, her own finances, and the life of her young son. When her husband was killed, Gwen's grief was so profound that her in-laws had her committed to an asylum with them as her guardians in control of her and her son. There's one thing about The Good Old Days: they didn't mince words. Gwen is finding out that she now has to deal with the Master of Lunacy in the Lunacy Court in order for her to regain control and have the decision overturned. (I don't know how I'd feel if I had to introduce myself as the Master of Lunacy... or would that be the Mistress of Lunacy...)
Bainbridge has been told categorically that she cannot be seen to participate in any sort of investigation; it could have a dire effect on her chances in Lunacy Court. But how can she stand by when Sparks needs her help? These are definitely interesting times for the two women as Sparks finds herself going to, among other places, a refuge camp in the course of her investigation. 
Once again, The Unkept Woman dishes up a mouth-watering buffet of mystery, mayhem, wit, and wisdom, and I think it's time that I admit that I have a crush on Percival the butler with his "derby of discretion." That man is a star. On a final note, many of you may know that the British have a reputation for standing in lines, or as they call them, "queues". There's a bit of that in The Unkept Woman, and Gwen tells her young son and his friend, "Remember, boys, anything with a queue is something worth waiting for"-- which, come to think of it, describes this entire series. If you haven't made the acquaintance of Gwen Bainbridge and Iris Sparks, it's time to stop waiting and start at the beginning with The Right Sort of Man. These books are so much fun!

The Unkept Woman by Allison Montclair
eISBN: 9781250750358
Minotaur Books © 2022
eBook, 315 pages
Historical Mystery, #4 Sparks & Bainbridge mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley


  1. Oh, yes, Cathy, I remember you've posted about this series before, and it does look great. Strong female characters, solid sense of the setting and times, and an engaging mystery - no wonder you liked this so well. It's nice, too, isn't it, when the next novel in a series lives up to the first!

    1. Yes, it is-- and you really need to read this series, Margot!

  2. I've never read any of this series. It does sound intriguing.

  3. I read and LOVED the first book, but then somehow forgot about the series. So thanks for the reminder! I can't wait to catch up with these fun characters. :)

  4. I love this series and am looking forward to this one. I have it reserved at the library, but our library is closing for a month (!!) in order to move from one location to another, so I will have to be patient.

  5. Oh, I'm looking forward to this one!


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