Cover Image: The Lady from Burma

The Lady from Burma

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This is another in the Right Sort Marriage Bureau mystery series. Set in post WWII London Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge, owners of the Marriage Bureau, help people find each other, they also find murderers. They have just gotten an interesting new client, a dying woman who wants them to find a match for her soon to be widower husband. Then the new client is found dead in Epping Forest, and shortly after the guardian who has been handing Gwen's affairs (Gwen is about to have a hearing to establish her sanity in the court of lunacy) is also murdered. The ladies need to get to work. 
This is a review of an ARC provided by NetGalley.
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Iris and Gwen are the owners of the Right Sort Marriage Bureau. Gwen is having a hearing in the Court of Lunacy hoping her petition will be granted that will declare her sane. In the midst of all this turmoil are three murders that are related to their business and Gwen's petition.
Allison Montclair has written interesting, intriguing incidents in which these two women solve the murders with Scotland Yard continuing the drama of Sparks and Bainbridge.
Read the saga of these two modern women.
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This is book five of the historical mystery series starring Iris Sparks (with a possible dangerous past) and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge (an aristocratic war widow with a young son who is fighting for her rights in Lunacy Court!).   Together they run the Right Sort Marriage Bureau in post WWII London, but they simultaneously seem to be in just the right place to solve murders, much to the chagrin (and eventual admiration) of the local police.

While this is book five in the series, it’s book one for me.  I was able to keep up just fine but I do feel a lot must have happened in the previous books.  I can’t tell how much progress was made in the personal situations for both women before this story — may be better to start at book one!

In this book, they get an unusual client. A woman dying of cancer comes in to line up a wife for her husband after her passing.  Unfortunately, that passing happens more quickly than expected. Simultaneously, the very conservator who has been holding Mrs. Bainbridge hostage during her fight with the Lunacy Court has also turned up dead.  The body count steadily increasing only seems to stimulate the interest of the two women.

The plot kept my interest, and I enjoyed learning about various procedures / processes in that (still rather unfriendly to women) time period.  The writing was a little stilted for my taste, but overall I enjoyed it.
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As usual, I was pulled right into the latest cases of Sparks and Gwen and the Right Sort Marriage Bureau. Gwen is holding back from romantic entanglements while she untangles her legal and financial situations. Sparks is trying to decide what she wants in the romance department. In the meantime a new client presents them with the unique opportunity to find a match for her husband after she is gone. This tragic situation becomes a criminal investigation when she is found dead. I love the continuing development of the characters in this series and how they are dealing with their post-war problems and issues.
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This was a fun, twisty ride of a whodunit with a smidge of romance.  It's the fifth in the series, but it works very well as a standalone.

Plucky Iris Sparks and classy Gwendolyn Bainbridge are quite the pair when it comes to both matchmaking and solving mysteries.  It's definitely a fun book, and I think anyone who enjoys British mysteries will love this as well.
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Another great Sparks and Bainbridge novel. It is witty and cracks with character on the page. If you have not read any of Montclair's other novels you do not need to prior to reading this book, but can help give additional color to the characters.
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When her guardian is found dead after the unsatisfactory lunacy hearing, Gwen Bainbridge is the leading suspect. Her partner in The Right Sort Marriage Bureau Iris Sparks knows this is not possible and is determined to clear Gwen's name and get her released back into normal life. A happily married woman comes to them and asks them to find a wife for her husband after she is dead. Adela Remagen is dying of cancer and she cannot think about her devoted husband being alone after she dies. An odd request, but Sparks and Bainbridge comply. When Mrs. Remagen is found dead from suicide in the woods a few days later, Gwen and Iris cannot believe she killed herself.  Along with a local constable they put the pieces together to solve the crime. This series is one of my favorites and I look forward to each new book.
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I love this whole series and this book was just as good as the others, maybe even better. Smart, surprising, fun, deep — I’m only sad that it’s over.
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Sparks and Bainbridge are super fun heroines and I look forward to more books in this series!

Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book--all opinions are my own.
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As always, the new Sparks and Bainbridge book is a delight. The combination of the two women running a match making service in post WW2 London and being amateur sleuths is clever. The case starts in a sad way - as they often do - but turns into a fascinating puzzle. 

My only complaint would be that the backstory of the two women is moving too slowly-unlike Maisie Dobbs, for example, where each installment has a real chunk of story about the heroine,  we only get teasers about what's going on with Iris and Gwendolyn, which leaves me wanting more on that front. Perhaps turning them into actual sleuths, so there's less explaining to do about how they ended up with another case, would help with this.

Overall, I devoured the novel, as I have all the previous ones in the series - they are heart-warming, brain-relaxing, and so atmospheric. The emphasis on women entrepreneurs and women's friendship here is real and fresh, and the characters so well crafted. 

Would definitely recommend!
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Thankfully they don’t bug off.  The tenacious, wisecracking odd couple of Lady Gwendolyn Bainbridge and Miss Iris Sparks are at it again.  The Lady From Burma, the fifth installment of this electric series, picks up shortly at the conclusion of The Unkept Woman in post WW2 London, a scarred city with scarred people, sometimes, mostly, on the mend.  After they have been unwittingly involved in (and solved) a spate of unrelated murders, Gwen and Iris want to do nothing more than get down to their jointly owned business, the matchmaking Right Sort Marriage Bureau.  And their business is love and happiness, with a selection process somewhat like a human precursor to Hinge. A woman-owned and run business is an oddity and precarious enough, but the stakes are additionally high for Iris and Gwen.  

Author Allison Montclair has done her historical research on the almost unbelievably named, Court of Lunacy, which is having a hearing  on Gwen’s petition to determine if she can regain custody of her son, and a co-controlling interest of Bainbridge Limited, which will allow her independence and an upper crust income.  She has formidable opponents though, her overbearing, irascible father-in-law, Sir Harold Bainbridge and the dour fiscal guardian he has appointed for her. Former intelligence officer Iris is just scraping by financially and emotionally, trying to understand her taste for unsuitable men, reckless situations, and moral ambiguity with the guidance of her (and Gwen’s) psychiatrist Dr. Milford.  This journey is as thorny as any she undertook as a special ops member. 

However, the luxury of just running their business eludes them when they interview a happily married but terminally ill Mrs Remagen who wishes the Right Sort to find a future suitable wife to take care of her unconventional etymologist husband, once stationed in Burma.  But when she turns up dead, an apparent suicide, but in suspicious circumstances, Iris and Gwen feel compelled to investigate.  Their efforts will take Iris to a colony of insect enthusiasts at the Royal Entomological Society lectures and more unsettlingly, get tangled into both their personal lives. 
Readers of the series can be reassured that the biting humor and witty dialogue are at their usual fencing and saber level, and that many of the characters from the previous books, get more page time and backstory, such as Archie, Iris’s gangster boyfriend, and their massive lovelorn playwright friend Sally, who wants renown for his words instead of his menacing presence.  As in the previous books, what on the surface appears to be frothy, has more than one trenchant turn.  It would be misleading to deem The Lady From Burma light.  It is rife with the deeper issues of systemic misogyny, the societal and institutionalized stigma and treatment of mental health disorders, and the psychological (and physical) aftereffects of war.  And yet still, it is funny and a quick entertaining read. This is not easy to pull off and Montclair does it well.  Sixth helpings? I am so up for another round.  My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher.
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I have been a fan of Allison Montclair’s Right Sort series from the get go. The latest is the best yet. We find Iris still dating her gangster boyfriend, and Gwen finally getting her day in the court of lunacy so that she can take control of her life. As always, there are various storylines, mysteries and surprises. I think the most surprising part of this particular book is Gwen and Lord Bainbridge actually working together. I thoroughly enjoyed this installment and dare say that if you have been a fan of the first four books, you will, too. Thank you to Net Galley and Allison Montclair for the ARC of this book.
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Just when I think the Sparks & Bainbridge series can't get any better, I have a new favorite! 

THE LADY FROM BURMA is fifth in the series about two unforgettable women who came together in London after WWII to form The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. They couldn't be more different, but each was deeply affected by the war. Iris Sparks learned a lot of skills serving in an intelligence unit and still has some useful military contacts. She is currently dating a low-level gangster and is fiercely loyal to her more refined but equally brilliant partner, Gwen Bainbridge. Gwen lost her husband in the war, reacting so strongly that she was institutionalized and lost custody of her young son, who was  cared for by her in-laws in her absence. For two years she has been trying to have the stigma of "lunatic" removed from her name so that she can regain custody and take her rightful place as a major shareholder in her husband's family business, although she is at least able to live with her son under the watchful eye of his grandparents. In addition to finding suitable matches for their clients, the pair has often become involved in dangerous police investigations--one involving the Crown--and sometimes even solved the case. 

There are so many different things going on in this book, much to my pleasure. Two separate women have enrolled in their service looking for prospective husbands, but the co-proprietors have reason to feel they have not been totally truthful. More importantly, a terminally ill woman married to a famed entomologist has come to them asking for a match for her spouse after her death. When she later turns up dead of a supposed suicide, the plot thickens. At the same time, Gwen is hopeful that her petition to the court will be successful, but there are still huge roadblocks to overcome. 

The delightfully eccentric Iris and Gwen are the stars of the story and continue to develop as the series progresses, but the supporting characters--including several men who have romantic intentions toward one or the other--are equally intriguing and distinctly drawn. Also worthy of note is the sparkling dialogue, alternating between cleverly witty and deeply emotional,, and a story that successfully and credibly ties up all of the subplots, leaving the reader pining for the pair's next adventure. Although this book can be read as a standalone, do yourself a favor and read the other four as well. Allison Montclair, a debut author when the first book was released, has only enhanced her skill with each book. Highly recommended.

My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review of this book.
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Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advanced copy of THE LADY FROM BURMA by Allison Montclair.

In the latest installment of the Bainbridge and Sparks mystery series, this story is set in London, England at the tail end of the Second World War,  Despite the end of the war, there is Still rationing in England.

Bainbridge is a war widow who had mental health issues, which she is dealing with.  Sparks is a Oxbridge graduate who served with military intelligence during the war.  The unlikely duo work together as business partners at the Marriage Bureau, playing matchmaker.

A married woman comes to the Bureau to ask the women to find a wife for her husband who is a scientist.  She is dying and she wants their help.  Another woman asks for the Bureau's help in finding a mate for her.  There are a lot of red herrings in finding who the murderer is as the dead bodies pile up.

Highly recommended for fans of mysteries set in post-WWII England.
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A witty, intelligent and rollocking good page-turner!   The Lady from Burma is the fifth - and best yet - installment of Allison Montclair’s Sparks and Bainbridge mystery series set in post-World War II London, in which feisty, fierce, fascinating, and foxy Iris and Gwen run a marriage bureau and solve mysteries in their spare time.   

I loved reading this immersive and entertaining tale.  By turns humorous and heart wrenching, complex yet propulsive, the novel is very well crafted, with superb pacing and crisp dialogue.  The characters of Iris and Gwen are beautifully developed, with each woman portrayed as having smarts and gumption but also plenty of relatable flaws and fears.  The large cast of secondary characters is vividly drawn.  The extent of Montclair’s research is additionally apparent, as she once again manages to utterly transport the reader to postwar London, with just enough period specific details sprinkled throughout.  I look forward to discovering Iris and Gwen’s future shenanigans and life choices in the next installment of this series.  

Highly recommended, particularly to anyone seeking intelligent historical mysteries featuring strong, interesting women.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for a complimentary ARC.  Opinions are my own.
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This was the 5th installment of the Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery series, and it was by far my favorite. 

Gwen and Iris are trying to find their clients perfect marriage matches while always finding themselves entwined with some sort of murder case. This book also tackles Gwen's journey to rid herself of the "lunacy" title and get back her freedom. 

Thanks to Netgalley for an advance copy.
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The Lady From Burma is number five in the series The Sparks & Bainbridge Mysteries but could be read as a standalone with enough of the background explained inside this story. The Right Sort Marriage Bureau is run by adventurous, bug loving Iris Sparks and “lunatic” but classy rich widow Gwendolyn Bainbridge. The ladies can solve a murder mystery while finding the loneliest of hearts the perfect match. Gwen is fighting hard to get her rights back from the lunacy court and facing some major deception. Iris is trying to decide if she wants to settle down while dating one of the biggest mobsters around. When a dying client requests they find her husband a future match, the ladies never dream the case will draw them into a murder investigation. Gwen’s upcoming lunacy case will have her a leading suspect in another case that she’ll have to solve to stay out the madhouse. Original characters and interestingly, smart mysteries drive another winner in the historical series that is a must read. My voluntary, unbiased review is based upon a review copy from NetGalley.
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The Right Sort Marriage Bureau has an unusual client, a married woman who has a terminal illness and wants Iris and Gwen to find a suitable second wife to take care of her husband after a decent internal has passed.  She dies a few days later, before her illness has taken it's natural course, and Iris and Gwen find themselves in the middle of another murder investigation.

This is the fourth novel in the series set in post WW2 London and it finally resolves Gwen's long-standing issue with the Lunacy Court.  Both women seem to come closer to resolving their personal relationship issues and all of the loose ends of a complex mystery are tied together in a very satisfying manner.
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<i>I was excited to get this ebook from one of my favorite series from NetGalley and St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books.  THANKS!</i>

<b>Another fun romp for our two feisty gals!</b>

If you’ve come fresh to this series, turn right around and get Book #1, THE RIGHT SORT OF MAN.   At this point there’s enough going on that jumping right in would leave you unappreciative of the progress Iris and Gwen have made in their lives.

If, on the other hand, you are like me and are coming back to the series after time and quite a few books have passed by, don’t worry.  Ms. Allison brings us up to speed in the first few chapters. 

 I , for example, had forgotten that there were now two boys in the Bainbridge household.  So I was thankful for the assistance so I could slide right back into this post-war world.

I love how the mystery began with something very different.  And the women who come forward to place their trust in The Right Sort could not have been more different.  And humor!  I love the warmth and humor in this series.  

So mystery, personal drama and humor.  Hard to go wrong with these ingredients.

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Allison Montclair has created original, complex, and thoroughly fascinating characters in Sparks and Bainbridge.
I have read and enjoyed the entire series but these last 2 books (The Unkept Woman and The Lady from Burma) have been amazing.  I haven’t been able to put them down.  The mysteries are so good and the developments in the personal lives of Iris and Gwen are riveting. 

In The Lady from Burma, the prologue is such a great red herring.  While reading the book, I could think of at least three different scenarios that could explain the identities of  the two characters plotting their scheme involving The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. 

You could read this as a stand alone but you will want to read all these books for the deep dive into their lives.  Getting more details about Iris’s government work during the war and Gwen struggling to regain control over her life have been the overarching threads in this series.  In book 5, Gwen goes to court to get her freedom and finances back under her control and shed the antiquated lunatic label applied to her after the loss of her husband and subsequent confinement to a mental hospital.  It’s her first step to getting custody of her son back and it is emotional and fraught with tension.
The supporting characters are fully drawn as well.  Placing this series in London, right after WWII, showcases the great change and upheaval that event brought to London and the world.

Thank you NetGalley and Minotaur Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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