Monday, June 14, 2021

Book Review: A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver

A Peculiar Combination (Electra McDonnell #1)A Peculiar Combination (Electra McDonnell #1). Ashley Weaver. Minotaur Book (2021). 304 pages.  Genre:  Mystery, Historical.

First Line: "London. August 1940. We were going to get caught."

Summary:  Electra McDonnell has been cracking safes for as long as she can remember.  It is certainly not the most law abiding way to make a living, but it has worked for the McDonnell family.  

Electra, "Ellie", was raised by her Uncle Mick along with her cousins, Colm and Toby.  Since they are away fighting in the war, Uncle Mick had allowed Ellie to come along on some of his risky jobs.  When work was good, Uncle Mick was a locksmith.  But, when that work dried up, he took jobs breaking into safes and stealing the contents.  

On this night, in August 1940, Uncle Mick and Ellie were breaking into a home to get their hands on some jewels.  The problem was, Ellie had an uneasy feeling about this job.  There was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that should cause alarm, just a feeling she had.  

It turns out Ellie's feeling was right.  Ellie and Uncle Mick are caught and handcuffed.  They are put in a car to be transported to jail.  Instead, they arrive at a residence of sorts.  After being questioned alone, without Uncle Mick, Ellie is given a choice - agree to work for the government or go to jail.  She certainly doesn't want to go to jail, but working for the government was never in her plans.  But, as Major Ramsey explains that she would be helping the war effort, Ellie finds herself strangely excited by the prospect.  

Ellie is to assist Major Ramsey in opening a safe that contains sensitive weapons plans that have been stolen and are going to be given to the Germans.  Will Ellie be able to carry out the job without the help of Uncle Mick?  Will they be able to acquire the plans before it is too late?

My thoughts:  I am so glad I caught wind of this new series by Ashely Weaver.  Once I picked it up, I had a hard time putting it down until the end.  

I liked Ellie and Uncle Mick from the get-go.  Even though they are criminals, they are wonderful, good-hearted people.  Uncle Mick raised Ellie like his own daughter.  He had two sons of his own, and after his wife died, he raised all three of them.  His housekeeper, Nacy, was the mother-figure they all needed. Ellie's cousins are fighting for their country and they all miss them terribly.  As Ellie is a grown woman, she has an apartment on her Uncle's property.  However, Nacy still supplies a large dose of mothering on a regular basis.  The relationship between Ellie and Uncle Mick is definitely a loving one and similar to a father-daughter relationship.  

Major Ramsey is all business and as Ellie states, "As I had suspected, working with Major Ramsey was going to be very trying."  But, when one gets to know him, one finds that it is only the exterior that is rigid.  Underneath is something a bit softer.  I really enjoyed his character!  Especially the formality and stiffness, but that made the soft parts especially enjoyable.  The more they work together, the more Ellie gets to know him and understand where he is coming from.  In fact, there may be something more than a working relationship brewing.  In the course of this story, we learned a few things about his past, but there is definitely so much more to learn.  That has me looking forward to future books in the series. 

There is plenty of depth in the supporting characters as well, and much to be learned about them.  In addition to Uncle Mick and Nacy, there are Colm and Toby and their good friend, Felix. 

The mystery was complicated and suspenseful.  There were twists, turns and surprises galore.  I was completely surprised when the culprit was revealed.  

This is a historical mystery, but not many details of the war come into play.  Mostly just those that have bearing on the story.  Such as, black out curtains were being used, the cousins were away fighting in the war, and the weapons plans were going to be given to the Germans.  However, nothing more was needed.  It was through these details and the daily interactions and activities of the characters that I got a feel for the times. 

Overall, this was a fantastic story and will be one of my favorites of 2021.  


"Focus on what's before you and wait to see what comes. That was his motto, and he proved it again when he spoke."

"I looked at the neat rows, which had produced tomatoes, lettuce, onions, radish, cabbage, turnips, peas, and other fresh produce over the past few months.  There was beauty in it, in the symmetry of the rows and the way the greens glistened with dew.  There were birds chirping happily as they pranced and flew around the garden.  Even with the noise of the cars in the background, it was like a bit of the country in the middle of the city."