The Unkept Woman

Allison Montclair. Minotaur, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-75034-1

The friendship of Gwen Bainbridge and Iris Sparks, the “intelligent and resourceful” owners of the Right Sort Marriage Bureau, is tested in Montclair’s exemplary fourth mystery set in post-WWII London (after 2021’s A Rogue’s Company). When someone is shot to death in Iris’s flat, where an ex-boyfriend of hers has been living as a renter, Iris’s ability to be fully frank with Scotland Yard is limited by the connection of the victim to her previous life as a British intelligence operative. Iris decides to investigate on her own and asks Gwen to help search for the killer. The case comes at a fraught time for Gwen, who attempted suicide in 1944 after learning her husband was killed in battle; she was subsequently institutionalized in an asylum. Gwen is in the process of petitioning to end the guardianship controlling her life, which could be jeopardized if she once again probes a murder. The solution to the crime is both surprising and fair to the careful reader. Montclair’s capable, funny, and fully developed leads set a gold standard for the amateur sleuth subgenre. Dorothy Sayers’s fans will hope this series has a long run. (July)
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