Summary and book reviews of A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver

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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  • Published:
    May 2021, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

CHAPTER ONE

LONDON AUGUST 1940

We were going to get caught.

The alarming idea buzzed around inside my head like the menacing drone of an approaching Luftwaffe bomber, even as I tried to banish it. I had never had this sensation in the middle of a job before, and it was disquieting to say the least. It was unlucky to think such things, especially at moments like these. To lose concentration was the first step in making mistakes. And we couldn't afford to make mistakes.

I drew in a deep, steadying breath of the cool night air, freshened by a light rain earlier in the day, and glanced again down the darkened street. There was no one in sight. The whole neighborhood was quiet.

That's the way most streets were now, with the blackouts. Our brave boys of the RAF had valiantly defended the homeland in dogfights high above the Channel for the past month, but Cardiff and Plymouth had already been hit, and there was little doubt in the minds of most Londoners that it was only a matter of time before...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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. 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...continued

Full Review Members Only (490 words).

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

BookPage
It's a lighter read than many a mystery with the same setting, but A Peculiar Combination delivers the requisite suspense and misdirection that will keep the hard-boiled crowd on board as well.

Shelf Awareness
Filled with vivid historical details, late nights under a London blackout and characters from all classes classes who aren't quite what they seem, A Peculiar Combination is a sparkling addition to Weaver's oeuvre and a highly enjoyable start to a new series. A whip-smart safecracking heroine and satisfyingly tricky plot.

Historical Novel Society
This is an engaging and addictive historical thriller with a touch of romance...Fans of historical thrillers and strong female characters are going to love this World War II spy adventure. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews
A clever young woman's criminal lifestyle improbably puts her on the road to redemption in this exciting World War II series debut from Weaver...Brave Ellie and her aristocratic love should appeal to fans of Susan Elia MacNeal and Tessa Arlen.

Library Journal
Louisiana librarian Weaver launches an engaging new series that sparkles. Infused with witty romantic conflict, this historical mystery with convincing period details concludes with enticing story threads for future entries. For fans of Susan Elia MacNeal and Allison Montclair.

Booklist
This is a well-constructed historical spy story with plenty of romance, intriguing period details, and fascinating insights into the nitty gritties of safecracking.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[S]uperb...A thorny relationship between Ellie and Ramsey, a cast of colorful characters, a brisk pace, and an ironic message about the identity of true patriots enthrall. Readers will look forward to the next mission for the smart, feisty Ellie and her circle.

Author Blurb Victoria Thompson, USA Today bestselling author of Murder on Wall Street
An exciting first book in what promises to be a thrilling new series! Weaver has given us another delightful pair of sleuths who couldn't be more different, except for their desire to save their country. While Major Ramsey follows the rules, Ellie breaks them, all against a background of London during the Blitz. What could be more delightful? I read it in one sitting because I couldn't put it down!

Author Blurb Anna Lee Huber, bestselling author of the Lady Darby Mysteries
A cracking good mystery! A Peculiar Combination, the first in a new series, proves that Weaver's writing chops are as strong as ever. She introduces readers to a smart and gutsy new heroine, and takes them on an adventure filled with clever twists, flourishes of romance, and her signature sparkling wit.

Reader Reviews

Gabi

Criminals, Soldiers, Spies…oh my!
As fate brings them together, a spirited thief and a straight-laced Major become unlikely allies in war-time England as they join forces to thwart an attempt to deliver critical documents into the Germans’ hands. Intrigue, murder, and a sprinkling of...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Door Locks Throughout History

In Ashley Weaver's novel A Peculiar Combination, the heroine is a safe-cracker who breaks into houses by picking door locks. Locks that operate with keys, including those typically used on doors, haven't changed all that much within the past century and a half. In fact, personal door locks in use today are of the same basic design patented by Linus Yale in 1848.

The earliest known door lock was discovered during an archaeological excavation at the Palace of Khorsabad, which was constructed in ancient Assyria — what is now Northern Iraq. Dated to around 4000 BCE, the lock had wooden pins of various lengths built into a bolt that kept a door from opening. A lever-like key was inserted that would lift the pins out of the way, allowing...

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