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The Lady from Burma

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Member Reviews

The Lady from Burma was a fun and witty story that keeps your attention from the beginning. I didn’t realize this was a part of a series until about half way through and it made me want to read the others! Mrs. Bainbridge is a character that you just want to root for and want to see succeed. I loved the setting in post WWII London. The mystery itself was executed so well and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it unfold! Such a fun read!

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The Right Sort Marriage Bureau was created by Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge in England after the war ends. Gwen is a posh sort who is still trying to reclaim her rights after a suicide attempt and Iris is a former spy who doesn't talk about her past. The two ladies created the agency to protect their clients from liars, and dangerous people.

Having been involved in a few scrapes and mysteries in the first four books the agency is well established. The skills of Sparks and Bainbridge have been well tested. Book five, The Lady from Burma introduces a new mystery. The aforementioned Lady is dying from cancer and she would like to make sure her academic minded husband will be taken care of when she is gone. She is afraid he will retreat from the world and no one will take care of him or know how wonderful he is. She opens an account for him with the agency. It seems he also did some clandestine work for England during the war in the jungles of Burma. Recently he has been asked to lend his aid again but refused so he can be with his wife during her illness.

When the lady is found dead in the Epping Woods by apparent suicide only Bainbridge and Sparks think something is wrong and investigate.

This is a great historical mystery series, really shows how difficult things were for women who wanted more than the society was willing to give them at the time.

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Tremendous! Precisely what I was looking for in the moment. Sure, it's not going to change your life or open your eyes to heretofore unrecorded wonders, but these two plucky heroines make old paths seem new and fresh. Excellent character chemistry, and fabulous, propulsive prose. A welcome wad of mental chewing gum that proved an enjoyable, rather uplifting respite from the current chaos of our world. Liked it so much, I went back and read the entire series!

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The Lady from Burma is the fifth Sparks & Bainbridge historical mystery by Allison Montclair. Released 25th July 2023 by Macmillan on their Minotaur imprint, it's 336 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout.

The writing is the high point. It's elegant, engaging, and smooth. Readers will appreciate the settings and immersive descriptions. The characters, including the secondary ones, are well rounded and feel integral and more than just window dressing. The author is also adept at narrative fiction overall, and the plotting is well crafted with good pacing which engaged but never overwhelmed the story.

The dialogue is intelligent and often rapid fire. I enjoyed the flow of the banter, especially between the two titular main characters; even (especially) when they were discussing very serious subjects, such as the changing landscape of London and the post-war world, wartime activities and deaths.

There are some potentially triggering themes: isolation, sexist treatment of women, suicide ideation. The book is warmly and sympathetically written but it's generally not humorous at all.

Four stars. Although the mystery is self contained here (and a twisty mystery it is), there are major spoilers for earlier books if read out of order.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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What I like about this series (besides the exciting mysteries and world) is that the characters keep bettering themselves. Both ladies look at their love lives and wonder if they want more or are just settling. The answers are accurate to their characters. There was one couple I thought was cute but agreed that the romantic relationship wasn’t working.

This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided through Netgalley for my honest thoughts.

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I keep returning to this series for its wonderful dialogue and interesting mysteries, but more importantly, the friendship between the two leads Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge.

In this fifth instalment, that friendship is tested; Gwen's case is up before the Lunacy Court, and she is desperate to regain her legal and financial rights over hers and her son’s lives. She's been told in no uncertain terms by her lawyer and psychiatrist that she must stay away from murder investigations as her investigating will only be seen as a lingering instability in her character. When two murders occur, Gwen wants no part in solving them, leaving Iris to manage on her own.

The first murder is of their new client, Mrs. Remagen, who was dying of cancer. The woman had contracted the Right Sort Marriage Bureau to find her soon to be alone entomologist husband a new wife. Iris and Gwen are initially surprised, as they've never had to deal with a request like this before. After details are agreed upon, the two set to work, but are very soon after shocked when they learn their new client has committed suicide. The Right Sort owners know this makes no sense, based on their understanding of their client.

Gwen decides to meet with the conservator in charge of her finances, and to accept an invitation from a member of the Bainbridge corporation’s Board. The conservator is dismissive of Gwen, and is shocked when he sees her at the Board meeting, where, because of her father-in-law’s absence from the day-to-day running of the company while he recovers from his injury (previous book), several Board members attempt to snatch control of the company. One of the conspirators is Gwen’s conservator, and Gwen averts the takeover, but decides to become more familiar with the company's and her own finances, which eventually sends her in a fury to her conservator's office. Sometime that same day, her conservator is murdered, and Gwen is chief suspect.

Meanwhile Sparks is investigating their client’s death, and attending a talk about insects at the museum so she can suss out the widower for a possible motive. She quickly eliminates him as a suspect, and meets a young female insect researcher who seems interested in the Right Sort finding her a possible partner. Sparks also meets a smart young constable, Hugh Quinton, who also feels that the suicide is suspicious.

When it’s clear Gwen cannot get away from murder, and realizes she wants no negativity between her and Sparks, she and Iris begin working together on figuring out both murders. The two cases are complex, with many things going on but the author manages to keep things clear and the pacing moving well.

The women's digging eventually unearths lies, legal and financial mismanagement, murder, and just generally terrible behaviour. They also need to dig deep emotionally, as aspects of the case are causing much reflection into who they are and what they want.

I was surprised that Iris was such an insect admirer, but every little new detail we learn about the very secretive Sparks is always welcome.

My complete enjoyment of this charming series continues, as this instalment was a very satisfying journey for both women, as they realize just how much they really do need each other emotionally and professionally.

Thank you to Netgalley and to St. Martin's Press for this ARC in exchange for my review.

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This is the 5th outstanding book in the Sparks & Bainbridge mystery series. The two women run the Right Sort Marriage Bureau but somehow end up solving mysteries together. Set in post WWII London, this is excellent historical fiction. In this book, one of their own clients is found murdered and they investigate.
5 stars.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed as in this review are completely my own.

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I continue to really enjoy this series. This may be my favorite one yet as the characters get more and more developed and the plotlines become more complex and interwoven. At the same time it’s still nicely lighthearted and easy reading. I look forward to the sixth installment eventually.

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Alison Montclair's series is a must read for any historical or traditional mystery fan! Will be putting it on my book club list and recommending it to anyone looking for a different twist on the historical mystery!

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Another solid outing in the Sparks and Bainbridge series. After suffering a breakdown when her husband was killed, Gwen Bainbridge was declared a lunatic and her affairs were handled for her. Now that she's ready to regain her automony, her conservator has been murdered and she's an obvious suspect. Of course she and her partner, Iris, take up the investigation, even though her sleuthing has been used as further evidence of her insanity! A twisted and winding story that kept me turning pages.

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The Lady from Burma by Allison Montclair is a London post-WWII mystery and is the 5th in a series. I love reading a historical fiction mystery and this one was fantastic! While it can be read as a standalone, I recommend to read the other books because of the wonderful back story. I thought it was engaging and enjoyed every moment of my read.

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Allison Montclair's "The Lady from Burma" is the fifth installment in her captivating Sparks & Bainbridge mystery series. Set in post-World War II London, the novel follows the intrepid duo of Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge as they delve into a perplexing case involving a seemingly suicidal death, a mysterious client, and a web of hidden secrets.

The story unfolds when Miss Sparks and Mrs. Bainbridge receive an unusual request from The Lady from Burma, an enigmatic client who wishes to find a suitable wife for her entomologist husband, Professor Remagen, upon her passing. Before they can fulfill their task, tragedy strikes, and The Lady from Burma is found dead in Epping Forest, her death ruled a suicide.

Refusing to accept this at face value, Miss Sparks and Mrs. Bainbridge embark on an investigation that leads them down a labyrinth of clues, suspects, and long-buried secrets. As they delve deeper into the case, they uncover a world of deception, betrayal, and hidden motives.

Montclair skillfully weaves together mystery and historical fiction, immersing the reader in the atmosphere of post-war London. The characters are vividly portrayed, their personalities and backstories gradually revealed as the story unfolds. Miss Sparks and Mrs. Bainbridge form an unlikely but effective partnership, their contrasting strengths complementing each other as they navigate the complexities of the case.

The Lady from Burma is a captivating tale of intrigue, set against the backdrop of a world struggling to rebuild after the war. Montclair's writing is engaging and suspenseful, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat until the very end.

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I enjoy this series and the charming characters. This book shakes things up a little. The examination of women's rights and mental health are honest, if deeply troubling.

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A London post-WWII mystery that is the 5th in a series. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction but this one was interesting because Iris and Gwendolyn own a marriage agency that helps women find the right spouse for them.

In this one, a happily married woman comes into the agency to find a new wife for her husband as she is dying of cancer. When the same woman is found dead in a nearby forest, Iris and Gwendolyn seek out the truth.

While it can be read as a standalone, I wish I would have read the other books because I missed some of the back story. I thought it was engaging and enjoyed solving the mystery with them.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for this eARC. The Lady from Burma is out now.

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This is the fifth Sparks & Bainbridge mystery, and there’s a heavy serialized element with these books—the two women run a marriage bureau, which somehow keeps leading them into danger and intrigue. The titular lady is an unusual client; she wants them to find a match for her husband. Adela is dying of cancer, and feels her spouse would be lost without a wife to take care of him.

Gwen Bainbridge, whose own suicide attempts after her husband was killed in World War II led her to be labeled a “lunatic,” makes the woman promise that no matter what, she won’t kill herself. When Adela dies, apparently by her own hand, Gwen is convinced that it must have been murder.

Meanwhile, Gwen’s getting ready for the trial which may finally give her back her freedom, as well as allow her to take her husband’s seat on the board of her father-in-law’s company. The “lunatic” label gets thrown around freely in this book, but frighteningly enough, that was an official term, even in post-WWII Britain—the Office of the Master in Lunacy, which had jurisdiction over the financial affairs and personal welfare of the mentally ill, wasn’t renamed until 1947 (it is still around, but now called the Court of Protection).

As usual, I’m not sure how well this novel would fare as a stand-alone, but fans of the series will enjoy the banter between Sparks & Bainbridge and Gwen’s rock-solid determination to secure her personal liberty once and for all.

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Allison Montclair immerses the reader in the fifth Sparks & Bainbridge mystery with The Lady from Burma. It's postwar London and the Right Sort Marriage Bureau has been tasked finding a partner for a lady's husband after she dies from cancer. Then the lady turns up dead, murdered. Meanwhile Mrs. Bainbridge is having trouble getting her legal status as a former lunatic straightened out. Iris Sparks, a former doer of dangerous deeds for the government, is investigating both the loss of Mrs Ramagen and the case of her partner. To complicate things further the guardian for Mrs. Bainbridge is somehow entangled in all this. Lots of intrigue and murder. Enjoy.

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although this book was good, I was still left a bit confused due to the fact that this book was the fifth one in the series so I was left with a few questions when some reference to other cases came up ( I suppose from the other series). Besides the confusion. I did like the mental health aspect and how the MC is dealing with it ( it's not common to see this aspect in books). I love the characters, they were well done and the background was very well built. I also love the idea of a match-making business being secretly an investigation office ( women detectives during post-war London is dope).

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The Lady from Burma is #5 of Sparks & Bainbridge Mysteries
A mystery that takes place after WW!!
I loved the characters and found myself constantly trying to figure out the mystery (and always failing lol I'm terrible). Definitely an interesting read and I can't wait for the next one!

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and St. Martin's Press for providing me with an ARC copy.
All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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This is the fifth entry in the Sparks and Bainbridge mystery series, which follows the matchmaking endeavors of two very different women in London, right after WWII ended. I do not recommend skipping titles, as there is clear character development from book to book, more revelations about Iris’s role in the war effort, and progress on Gwen’s efforts to regain control of her life, her finances, and custody of her son.

In this novel the focus swings back to Gwen and the impending change in her legal situation, though there is a bit more about Iris’ life before the war.

Beware: mental health issues; mentions of self-harm; discussion of suicide; terminal illness (cancer); loss of spouse; grief; conservatorship; shooting on page.

As with all previous installments, the sense of time and place is fantastically well done; the author integrates all the little details that bring the setting alive in the narrative, from dialogue to action, without forcing the reader to stop for a history lesson.

Summer is over, and with Autumn comes a change in weather; Gwen’s hearing before the Lunacy Court is fast approaching, and with it the possibility of her taking charge of her inheritance and regaining custody of her son.

“To think that a man who wears a wig that length and a costume two centuries out of date is public gets to be the one to decide whether I’m sane or not” (Gwen, Chapter 1)

Gwen’s legal situation–as an adult who isn’t considered capable of making any decisions for herself–is honestly terrifying, not least because it happens today to people with unconscionable ease, in many countries around the world.

And once you’re under conservatorship, most courts are inclined to let it stand forever.

Things get further muddled when the person who can’t legally make decisions for herself also happens to be very, very wealthy.

To ice the cake of complicated, the situation at Bainbridge Ltd is in flux; what with Lord Bainbridge being out for the count, still recovering from a nearly fatal heart attack, a second partner in jail awaiting trial for murder, and Gwen being legally insane. And then Lord Tom Morrison, the acting CEO and Gwen’s father-in-law’s closest friend, invites her to sit in at the upcoming Board meeting, so she’ll “be ready” for when she can represent herself.

“You’re going to sit in on a board meeting?” (Iris) asked.

“Yes,” said Gwen. “That sounds rather exciting until you relize it means you’ll be sitting in on a board meeting. But it’s what I need to do.” (Chapter 1)

That same week, a new and unusual client shows up: a married woman who’s very ill, who wants to make sure the husband she loves finds someone else to love when she’s gone.

There’s an unadorned, matter-of-factness to Mrs Remagen’s acknowledgement of her mortality, and her determination to ensure her husband’s future happiness, that makes the scene all the more poignant. The deep of her love for him in one pharagraph:

“I never liked going into the forests, but I camped on the fringes and made sure the water was boiled while he went looking for beetles. I kept him alive for each new term, and we were happy.” (Mrs Remagen, Chapter 2)

The novel spans just over a week, with moments of great tension interspersed with fun banter between the main characters, or between one of them and some of the returning cast of secondary characters, as well as the introduction of a wonderful secondary character, one PC Hugh Quinton, from Essex.

There are, of course, a number of red herrings regarding both plotlines, and for the first time there’s a murder on page.

As for the main characters, Iris has an important breakthrough, finally accepting a few things about herself, and making a decision about her relationship with Archie–which may be a healthy thing or not, but very much a “to be seen” thing.

And then there’s Gwen, who’s still very much grieving for her husband. It’s been well over two years, but between her stay at the sanatorium, and the trauma that brought on, and her long fight to gain a sense of self beyond “daughter” and “wife”, Gwen hasn’t had the space she needs to let go–of him, of the dream they once shared. And until she does, she can’t open herself to the future.

I love these characters, and I am amazed at how much they’ve grown in the space of a few months (in-series timeline), but one reason I’ve been stuck writing this review for two weeks, is that I’m quite unhappy with Sally getting the short end of the stick. He’s been a true friend to Iris for a solid decade, and has been a friend to the firm from the beginning, and while it’s understandable that things go they way they do, given who the characters are and so on, I am still left with the feeling that a serious injustice has been done.

However, the plotting is top notch, the language is great, and the characterizations are all spot on, so The Lady from Burma gets a 9.00 out of 10.

And now to wait until the next book comes out–sometime next year.

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London post-WW2 is a changed place. Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge are two determined and motivated women, albeit from very different backgrounds. Iris is dating a gangster, and has a background in the British Secret Service. Gwendolyn is the widow of an aristocrat, has a young son, and is trying to get beyond being declared insane as a result of an attempted suicide after her husband's death. The duo have already solved several mysteries, and opened The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, where they match clients. But their latest client is something unexpected--a happily married woman with a terminal illness who wants them to find someone for her to-be-widower.

When she's found dead in a forest, wearing the most inappropriate shoes for hiking, Iris and Gwendolyn are suspicious. With the help of a local policeman, they look deeper into the classic whodunit questions--motive and opportunity. Meanwhile, Gwendolyn is trying to regain control of her life. When one of her conservators is found dead, she's a prime suspect. The two cases seem completely unrelated, but are they?

The Lady from Burma is a fun read. If you're a fan of Golden Age mysteries like Christie or Wentworth, you'll enjoy following along with this unusual crime-fighting duo. I'm happy to find a new series, and looking forward to following their further escapades.

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