Monday, September 14, 2020

Aubrey Hamilton Reviews: The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

The fantastic members of the Crime Thru Time historical mystery online discussion group drew my attention to a new series set in one of my chronological times of interest, the 1940s. I felt compelled to investigate. The Right Sort of Man (Minotaur, 2019) is set in London in the aftermath of World War II, before rebuilding commenced and rationing was still very much a part of everyday life. Author Allison Montclair is apparently a pseudonym of Alan Gordon, the author of the Fools’ Guild historical mystery series set in the 13th century. See the footnote on Montclair’s entry on the website Stop! You’re Killing Me.

Miss Iris Sparks, who is secretive about her participation in the recently ended war, and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge, a war widow living with her obnoxious mother-in-law, are both at loose ends. They decide to open a marriage bureau in Mayfair and after three months are pleased with their modest success. Their budding matchmaking careers are jeopardized though when one of their clients is murdered, and Scotland Yard decides the man Iris and Gwen set her up with is the culprit. Gwen, whose accurate assessment of people is awe-inspiring, knows the mild accountant is not guilty. Iris uses her war contacts to look into the dead girl’s background and finds some questionable activity. The pair delves into the alibis of her associates, which leads them into some hair-raising encounters with purveyors of black-market stockings and clothing coupons.

Secondary plots involve Gwen’s intense grief at the loss of her husband and her attempts to detach from her controlling mother-in-law. Iris has her own set of deep regrets about the war, which aren’t helped by encountering a former fiancĂ© who is now with Scotland Yard. The mother-in-law is masterfully drawn as someone we all would despise. Another fine character is Sally, their debt collector, who is actually an actor and budding playwright.

Perhaps one of the best parts of this story is the authenticity with which postwar London is portrayed. References to the shattered buildings, the stories of nights sheltering in the Underground, and the basic deprivations are worked unobtrusively but authoritatively in and around the story line. And the reminders of the loss of sons, brothers, husbands, comrades, not just numbers but lives that were dear to the people they left, are always there.

Fortunately, my local library has purchased both books issued so far. I didn’t have to wait long for the first title and I was number #32 on the waiting list for the second one when I last checked. Starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus and selection as the best mystery of 2020 by the American Library Association’s Reading List make this book a must-read for traditional and historical mystery fans.

·         Hardcover : 336 pages
·         ISBN-10 : 1250178363
·         ISBN-13 : 978-1250178367
·         Publisher : Minotaur Books (June 4, 2019)
·         Language: : English

Aubrey Hamilton ©2020

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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