Review: The Key to Deceit (Electra McDonnell #2) by Ashley Weaver

This series captured my heart last year with it’s debut! I have read other books and series by Ashley Weaver but this is the series that has captured my attention the absolute most! After book one I was so eager to see what happened with Ellie next! Did she go back to safe cracking and stealing or did she keep on the straight and narrow?

I grabbed this book as soon as it was released and since it was on the shorter side (under 300 pages) I basically read it in one sitting—on my flight to Cabo. It was a super quick read and I found that the magic and allure of the book and characters didn’t change for me from book one to two and I am once again eagerly awaiting the next book in the series! If you are a historical mystery fan you need this book series. The first and second books are short and can be read in one or two sittings. I would recommend starting with the first book so you can enjoy all the character relationships rather than diving in with this one first.

But if you do decide to dive in with the second book and not start with the first one, not a huge big deal as the author keeps you fully abreast of events of the previous book and the character relationships. Ellie is a lovely modern character with wit and charm but also an edge. If you love authors like Anna Lee Huber and Deanna Raybourn then you will no doubt find a winner with Electra “Ellie” McDonnell!


The second in the Electra McDonnell series from Edgar-nominated author Ashley Weaver, The Key to Deceit, is a delightful World War II mystery filled with spies, murder, romance, and wit.

London, 1940. After years of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor—well, to themselves, anyway—Ellie McDonnell and her family have turned over a new leaf as they help the government’s war effort. It’s true that the straight-laced Major Ramsey didn’t give them much choice, but still, Ellie must admit she doesn’t miss breaking and entering as much as she might have thought. What she does miss is the challenge of unlocking an impossible code and the adrenaline rush that comes from being somewhere she shouldn’t.

So when Major Ramsey turns up unannounced with another job, she can’t say no. A woman’s body has been found floating in the Thames, with a bracelet locked onto her wrist, and a cameo locket attached to it. It’s clear this woman was involved in espionage, but whose side was she on? Who was she reporting to? And who wanted her dead?  (summary from Goodreads)


In this book, Ellie has indeed stayed on the straight and narrow, but once again Major Ramsey calls on her for assistance. It is clear that the Major and Ellie have a complicated relationship. The tension and unasked questions from the first book have carried over into this one and readers will continue to wonder if Ellie and the Major will ever actually move beyond anything than just sometime colleagues. Felix (Ellie’s current beau) has returned from Scotland for work and he is hoping to continue his courtship with Ellie. I personally don’t care for Felix and I feel like their relationship just doesn’t fit. Which I think is actually the point. Ultimately I think the Major and Ellie are better suited but I think it’s going to take the author some time to develop a romance plot that makes sense given the two are from very different backgrounds. And I am ok with that I love the romantic journey so I am looking forward to seeing where things head next for them.

The plot itself was interesting and while it wasn’t an overly complicated mystery, I found a lot to enjoy and little leads that kept me guessing throughout the novel. I liked the spy angle of this one which was also the same reason I liked the first book but I think in the upcoming books we need to see Ellie make an official change from safe cracking thief to government worker and spy catcher. I think the thief angle will only work for so long before that change is necessary. I like the spy parts but it just doesn’t make sense that the Major would continue to come back to Ellie for help and support indefinitely so I hope to see something more permanent in future books develop.

As t his series develops and takes shape, I am hopeful that the author can give us something to really for the long term. It will take time to establish the relationship between the Major and Ellie, I think we need to get rid of the love triangle aspect fairly quickly and refocus on developing other parts of the series. Ellie and the Major have great chemistry but I feel like it’s always too short and then along comes Felix to just throw a wild card into the mix. I like love triangles just fine but not for too long. At some point (fairly quickly) I think Ellie needs to make a decision between her beaus. This was a decent installment but it also leaves a lot to accomplish in the next book. This for me was the transitional book. It was good but there is a lot that needs to be ironed out going forward if that makes sense. I am eager for the next one!

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, 272 pages

Published June 21st 2022 by Minotaur Books

ISBN 1250780500 (ISBN13: 9781250780508)

Free review copy provided by publisher, Minotaur Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 3 stars

Genre: historical mystery


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