Monday, June 17, 2024

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: Murder at the White Palace by Allison Montclair

Again I am here to extol the virtues of the next book in the Sparks and Bainbridge historical mystery series written by Alan Gordon under the name Allison Montclair. Alan Gordon is a recently retired lawyer, author, lyricist, and librettist, who is no stranger to the demands of writing a convincing historical mystery series. Between 1999 and 2010 he wrote eight well-reviewed books in the Fool’s Guild mysteries, set in early 13th century Europe.

Gordon chose a completely different time and place for his current series, but a fascinating one as well: post-war London. The country is in social and economic upheaval, service personnel are returning from overseas to find no jobs and sometimes bombed-out homes, and shortages of all kinds are still wreaking havoc with the simple act of existing day to day. He created two compelling, very different characters: Miss Iris Sparks, formerly of an intelligence unit, and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge, widow of an Air Force pilot from an aristocrat family. Both of them are looking for a fresh start when they meet and decide to form an agency to facilitate marriage among the lonely and unattached members of the London populace. The series debut earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus and selection as the best mystery of 2020 by the American Library Association’s Reading List.

Six books into the series and the duo are pleased with their success. They are making enough money to hire a secretary and they moved into a larger office. In Murder at the White Palace (Minotaur, release date July 30, 2024) Gwen suggests throwing a New Year’s Eve party for their clients as a sort of large-scale effort to match them up. The biggest roadblock was a venue that they could afford. Archie Spelling, Iris’s admirer, offered one of his buildings under renovation. He expedited the clean-up, during which a body was discovered. The initial assumption was that another victim of the Blitz had been discovered until further examination showed otherwise.

Since Spelling’s business ventures were often somewhat dubious, the police believed the victim was one of Spelling’s erstwhile competitors. Iris of course could not have Spelling wrongfully accused so she and Gwen went to work once again as investigators.

They are also addressing changes in their personal lives. Gwen is now in the possession of her inheritance. She is quietly searching for a home away from her controlling in-laws where she can raise her son. Iris is steeling herself to introduce her wrong-side-of-the-tracks boyfriend to her Member of Parliament mother and then to meet his family at the wedding of his nephew.

The characters of Iris and Gwen continue to grow here. Gwen gathers strength and self-confidence as she navigates the world without the husband she thought she needed. Iris is shedding the loner lifestyle she had adopted as she moves toward deeper involvement with Archie and his large family.

A major plot twist suggests even greater changes in the not distant future. Followers of the series will be waiting with bated breath for the seventh book.

Highly recommended, especially for fans of historical mysteries and of mysteries with strong female leads.



·         Publisher: Minotaur Books (July 30, 2024)

·         Language: English

·         Hardcover: 320 pages

·         ISBN-10: 1250854210

·         ISBN-13: 978-1250854216



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Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2024 

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

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