BookBrowse Reviews A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver

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A Peculiar Combination

Electra McDonnell Series #1

by Ashley Weaver

A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver X
A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver
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  • First Published:
    May 2021, 304 pages

    May 2022, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book



The author of the Amory Ames mysteries kicks off a new series with A Peculiar Combination.

Ashley Weaver, author of the seven-book Amory Ames mystery series, introduces her readers to a new heroine in A Peculiar Combination, set in England during World War II. Electra ("Ellie") McDonnell is an attractive, talented young woman who works with her uncle as a safe-cracker, preying on upper-middle-class families who have fled wartime London. The pair are apprehended one night during a job gone wrong and taken into custody by the handsome, irascible Major Gabriel Ramsey, head of a clandestine government agency. He makes a deal with them: He'll drop all charges if they help him disrupt a local spy ring. They agree, but the plan takes an alarming turn when their chief suspect turns up dead.

The narrative is Ellie's first-person account of her feelings and experiences as she accompanies the Major on increasingly dangerous missions. Weaver skillfully brings her heroine to life, portraying her as strong and independent yet naïve, particularly where the Major is concerned. The author is especially adept at showing her character's transformation from crook to patriot as she comes to understand just how vulnerable her country is to Nazi sympathizers, and realizes that she truly can make a difference to the war effort.

At times reading more like a thriller than a mystery, the plot starts at a brisk pace and picks up even more as the story progresses. Red herrings abound, and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing. Throw in a dash of romance, and the result is a fun, fast read. I can easily envision this series becoming addictive for some; if nothing else, there is the promise of the budding relationship between Ellie and the Major heating up in subsequent books.

While the novel is certainly enjoyable, it's without doubt on the light side. There are some plot points that don't quite make sense, and others that are eye-rollingly predictable. Other than the narrator herself, Weaver's creations are mostly stock characters (the tough-as-nails-yet-vulnerable leading man, the merry thief uncle, etc.); there aren't really any surprises here. And, while set in 1940, it's not terribly immersive historical fiction. The author inserts period snippets here and there, like the rarity of silk stockings or the use of blackout curtains, but nothing of which even casual readers of WWII literature would be unaware. The romance also didn't work for me personally; I'd say the lead characters lacked chemistry, although I suspect this will be rectified in forthcoming books.

When all's said and done, I did like the book enough to recommend it — with caveats. It's a perfect beach read and a wonderful diversion for those looking for an entertaining novel they can speed through and don't have to think too hard about. It's also appropriate for all age groups (the author keeps the romance PG-level) and it will likely earn Weaver many new fans. I look forward to the next entry in the series, and I imagine other readers will as well.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in June 2021, and has been updated for the May 2022 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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