The Unkept Woman

After several murder investigations, savvy business partners Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge are settling back into matchmaking with their Right Sort Marriage Bureau. But when an unknown woman claiming to be a Polish spy follows Iris home to her flat--then ends up fatally shot in that same flat--both women dive into the case to clear Iris's name. Allison Montclair (A Rogue's Company; The Right Sort of Man) weaves together wartime intelligence work, romances past and (potential) present, and the complexities of friendship in The Unkept Woman, her fourth entry in the Sparks & Bainbridge mystery series.

Readers of Montclair's previous mysteries will recognize some characters: aspiring playwright Sally (short for Salvatore); Iris's former intelligence colleagues; Gwen's young son, Ronnie, and her overbearing in-laws. But Montclair gives enough context (and the mystery is sufficiently twisty) to pull in anyone interested in a narrative that juxtaposes Britain's wartime secrets and the daily struggles of two women trying to carve out their own lives. Gwen's ongoing battle to regain custody of Ronnie (which involves emotional and legal challenges) makes her hesitant at first to get involved in another murder, but her friendship with Iris, and her natural curiosity, ultimately prevail. Iris, for her part, is determined to solve the case not only because she's a suspect, but because the circumstances involve at least two of her exes and the work they all hold in high regard.

Full of wry banter and red herrings, The Unkept Woman is a delightful British mystery with a strong friendship at its center. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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