The Right Sort of Man

Written by Allison Montclair
Review by Valerie Adolph

Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge open The Right Sort Marriage Bureau in London after the end of WWII. Iris is short and intensely practical, experienced with knives, guns and other ways to disable opponents, having fought behind the lines in occupied Europe. Gwendolyn is tall, elegant, and the young widow of a man from a wealthy, titled family. Neither have any apparent qualifications for running a marriage bureau. In the beginning, clients are few.

Then Tillie LaSalle walks in looking for a husband. Iris and Gwen agree that accountant Dickie Trower would be a perfect match for her. A date is arranged, but sadly Dickie gets a letter cancelling the date. Later Tillie is found murdered. Dickie is arrested and thrown in jail for the murder. Iris and Gwen go in search of the real killer and find themselves in a world of spies, black marketeers, forgers – and a killer.

Montclair has drawn some of the most interesting characters – intriguing, unusual yet totally believable – to populate this novel. Archie, Sally, Mister Tolbert, Lady Carolyne and Mrs. Dowd are almost Dickensian in their spot-on authenticity and aptness for their environment. The plot moves quickly, well-paced with unexpected twists. There are moments of light-heartedness and moments of deep emotion, adding depth and dimension and lifting this book well out of the field of run-of-the-mill historical mysteries. The dialogue is fast-paced and funny, with some of the best one-liners I’ve seen in a novel.

And throughout the voice and tone are – well – cheeky. Irreverent. A lot of books start that way and then hit the doldrums. It’s hard to maintain it over 300-plus pages. Montclair succeeds, while varying it strategically for the deeper moments. I’ll be first in line for her next book.