Today I’m featuring an early review for the kickoff to a new historical mystery series by author Ashley Weaver: A Peculiar Combination, the first in her Electra McDonnell series. It releases May 25, but you will want to add it to your TBR now!
The first in the Electra McDonnell series from Edgar-nominated author Ashley Weaver, set in England during World War II, A Peculiar Combination is a delightful mystery filled with spies, murder, romance, and the author’s signature wit.
Electra McDonnell has always known that the way she and her family earn their living is slightly outside of the law. Breaking into the homes of the rich and picking the locks on their safes may not be condoned by British law enforcement, but World War II is in full swing, Ellie’s cousins Colm and Toby are off fighting against Hitler, and Uncle Mick’s more honorable business as a locksmith can’t pay the bills any more.
So when Uncle Mick receives a tip about a safe full of jewels in the empty house of a wealthy family, he and Ellie can’t resist. All goes as planned–until the pair are caught redhanded. Ellie expects them to be taken straight to prison, but instead they are delivered to a large townhouse, where government official Major Ramsey is waiting with an offer: either Ellie agrees to help him break into a safe and retrieve blueprints that will be critical to the British war effort, before they can be delivered to a German spy, or he turns her over to the police.
Ellie doesn’t care for the Major’s imperious manner, but she has no choice, and besides, she’s eager to do her bit for king and country. She may be a thief, but she’s no coward. When she and the Major break into the house in question, they find instead the purported German spy dead on the floor, the safe already open and empty. Soon, Ellie and Major Ramsey are forced to put aside their differences to unmask the double-agent, as they try to stop allied plans falling into German hands.
A Peculiar Combination is a smart, high-stakes London mystery and adventure at wartime. The fast-paced plot shows a unique side of WWII home front operations with an unlikely duo: a safecracking heroine and a military Major hero working to thwart potential spies. While their pairing just hints at the beginnings of attraction between them, these romantic sparks add another layer to the complicated backstory of Ellie’s character as this book sets up what is sure to be a new favorite WWII fiction series.
I like how competent Ellie is in her intelligence and profession, particularly in a detail-oriented way. Her banter with Major Ramsey is entertaining and smart, contrasting with his by-the-book tendencies and his own fierce loyalty. Through Ellie’s eyes, Ashley Weaver explores themes of human nature through motives, history, and emotion-driven decisions.
There are many aspects to love about this mystery of a story, including its portrayals of family and friendship (LOVED Felix!), the art to safecracking, and the ways of life at risk during this era. I am looking forward to the next book in this series — and especially hoping for the hints of vulnerability the Major displayed to lead to a deeper relationship with Ellie!
Thank you to Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.