I have really enjoyed Ashley Weaver’s Amory Ames books so when I saw she was coming out with a new lady detective series and with a heroine by the name of Electra (Ellie for short), I knew this was going to be a great, great read! Clearing my schedule, I added this one to my early summer reading list and I am so glad that I did!
The Amory Ames series has been fun and I have liked the books I have read, but this book felt so much more complete for some reason (I will get to my thoughts on that in a minute!). Historical mysteries are my favorites, especially when it includes a little romance between the murder and investigating. But as many historical fiction/mystery readers know, WWII and the Victorian era are saturated with books.
So the question becomes how does an author distinguish their new lady detective series? It’s a tough question, for me the thing that caught my eye about this one was the name of the heroine. I loved her flashy and memorable name, it conjured images of a brazen, bold heroine that I just couldn’t get out of my head. That was what made me pick this one up in the sea of WWII historical mysteries!
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. (summary from Goodreads)
As mentioned earlier, Ellie as a heroine felt a little more polished and finished in this one than Amory Ames. Weaver is a strong writer and her lady characters are well written and interesting, but for me, Ellie seemed like she had a little something extra that Amory didn’t. Ellie had wit, sass, and strength but she just had something that made her sparkle and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but as I was reading her I felt like she was someone I would love to be friends with and perhaps I saw a little of myself in her character and I couldn’t help but all in love with her in a way that I didn’t with Amory Ames. Once you add in Weaver’s stunning historical research for this book, you will know right away that you are reading something special.
I also couldn’t get enough of the oddball pairing that was Ellie and Major Ramsey. If Ellie is the sassy thief, Major Ramsey is the strait laced voice of reason but when you get them together, the chemistry and sparks are undeniable. I loved the hint of romance in this one, but as always, I want more romance and I am eager to see how things develop with Major Ramsey and Felix (yes there is a little love triangle in this one) develop in future books.
While there was a romantic element in this one, it is not the focus. Weaver has written a new, well-balanced mystery/espionage series that has just the right amount of romance. The mystery itself is really well done and even if the beginning started out a little slow, but just a few chapters I was hooked and by the end, suspense was at an all time high! I loved how well done this one was. The mystery was smart, thought out, and nuanced. I think this went hand in hand with her historical research. Combining the historical research and a smart mystery with excellent characters and character development really made this one stand out. In the end it earned five stars from me. I loved it and can’t wait for the next book!
Book Info and Rating
Format 304 pages, Hardcover
PublishedMay 25, 2021 by Minotaur Books
ISBN9781250780485 (ISBN10: 1250780489)
Free review copy provided by publisher, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: historical fiction, historical mystery, detective novel