The Right Sort of Man

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

Despite the title, this appealing first novel is a historical mystery, not a romance. In 1946, Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge, a war widow, have combined their unique talents to open The Right Sort Marriage Bureau in Mayfair, London. Iris can’t talk much about her work during the war, but she has all sorts of contacts and can pick locks. Wealthy Gwen has a young son and a gift for matchmaking. After their latest client, shop clerk Tillie La Salle, is found dead and her match, accountant Dickie Trower is charged with her murder, Iris and Gwen team up to save their business. They investigate Tillie’s connections to the black market and Gwen learns to travel around London by bus, visiting Dickie in prison, where he’s worried about his goldfish. The postwar London setting is richly detailed, the characters are likeable and believable, and the dialogue is witty. I’m already looking forward to Montclair’s next book, A Royal Affair, to be published next June.

Brenda

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

This entertaining Victorian mystery is perfect summer reading for fans of British mysteries or Georgette Heyer’s witty Regency romances. Set in 1899 in Surrey and London, American-born Frances Wynn, the elder Countess of Harleigh, is just finishing her year of mourning for her husband Reggie. Frances and her young daughter Rose are moving to London, over the protests of her brother and sister-in-law, who want Frances to fund repairs to their manor house.

Frances’ aunt and younger sister Lily arrive for the season, and Lily acquires three suitors. After a stolen bracelet is found in Frances’ bag, Frances and her neighbor George Hazelton are concerned that one of Lily’s suitors may be responsible for recent thefts at society balls. If that wasn’t enough, Inspector Delaney calls to ask Frances questions about Reggie’s death. Lighthearted and fast-paced, this first novel is a delight. I enjoyed the audiobook narration of Sarah Zimmerman, and look forward to reading A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, which is available now.

Brenda

An American Agent

An American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

Private investigator Maisie and her friend Priscilla spend a few evenings a week driving an ambulance in London during the blitz. Catherine Saxon, an American reporter, rides along one night, reports what she saw on the radio, and is found dead the next day. Maisie and her assistant Billy investigate, with occasional help from an attractive American agent, Mark Scott. Maisie visits Catherine’s boarding house, and meets with her friends, all while worried about her family in Kent, where she spends weekends. An intriguing puzzle, appealing characters, and a fast-paced story make this a memorable mystery. The first book in the long-running series is Maisie Dobbs.

Brenda

The Spies of Shilling Lane

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan

This is a rare World War II novel set on the home front in London that is both suspenseful and joyous. Mrs. Braithwaite isn’t the most appealing character as she’s booted out of her village women’s club (she’s both bossy and divorced), but when she reaches London she begins to transform. Her daughter Betty is missing, and though they’re not at all close, Mrs. Braithwaite goes in search. Betty’s anxious landlord Mr. Norris is surprised to find himself involved in Mrs. B’s quest and they get caught up in a bombing raid during the Blitz. Betty is a spy for MI5 trying to uncover Nazi sympathizers, and turns out to need assistance from her mother and Mr. Norris. I enjoyed the quirky characters, and found this novel by the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir a delight to read.
Brenda

The Vanishing Man

The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch

I’ve long enjoyed reading and listening to the Charles Lenox Victorian mystery series by Charles Finch, and this prequel is a great entry into the series. Set in London and Kent in 1853, gentleman Charles Lenox, 26, along with his valet Graham, is learning to be a private detective, even though he doesn’t need to charge for his services. His good friend, Lady Jane, lives next door and supports his new endeavor. The Vanishing Man of the title could refer to two mysteries; the theft of a portrait of a former duke and the disappearance of the current Duke of Dorset, whose London mansion is close to Parliament and the Thames River. Lenox is in search of both, and an even more intriguing mystery relating to William Shakespeare. I enjoy the audiobook narration of James Langton, as well as a strong sense of place, very appealing main characters, and a clever plot. Recommended for historical mystery readers and Anglophiles. The first prequel is The Woman in the Water, and the first book in the main series is A Beautiful Blue Death.

Brenda

The Gown

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

Residents of postwar London are still dealing with rationing and a slow recovery. Ann Hughes, an embroiderer for designer Norman Hartnell, is thrilled to be chosen to work on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown, along with French immigrant Miriam. Decades later in Toronto, Heather seeks to learn more about her grandmother’s past. This is a sure winner with wide appeal, especially for Anglophiles and royal watchers, with appealing characters and a compelling plot. I could not put this book down, and really enjoyed reading about life in 1947 London, and how Miriam and Ann dealt with their challenges.

Brenda

The Word is Murder

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Diana Cowper visits a London funeral home to plan her own funeral and is killed later the same day. Coincidence? Or is her involvement in a fatal car accident almost ten years ago connected? Perhaps her son Damian, a famous actor in Los Angeles, has an enemy. Hawthorne, a police consultant, investigates, and wants the author to observe his investigation and write a book about the case. Hawthorne is brusque, brilliant, and secretive, and Horowitz is intrigued. Very clever writing from a versatile author who’s tackled Agatha Christie in The Magpie Murders, Sherlock Holmes in The House of Silk, written a series of thrillers about a teenage spy, and whose next project is a James Bond book. Next year look for another Hawthorne book, The Sentence is Death. Rory Kinnear is an excellent narrator for the audiobook.

Brenda