Saturday, July 24, 2021

Review: A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver

by Ashley Weaver
Release Date: May 25th 2021
2021 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250780485
Audiobook: B08SRCG1HT
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Historical 
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

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.
My Thoughts
A Peculiar Combination is the first book in a new mystery series by this author, and like her previous series, I liked the main character and thought the overall story was fun, if light.  The story takes place during WWII so there is a lot of potential for intrigue and plot development in this new series, but you can tell this is the first book in a new series as the author needs to set up relationships and give us some information about the characters which does take away from the overall story at times.  I don't necessarily mind this too much as I enjoyed learning about the characters, but for me, it did take away from the overall suspense of the story.
I really liked Ellie as a main character; she was loyal, curious, independent, and brave, but she was also a bit stubborn, a trait that could get her into real trouble, I think.  The other characters were likable as well, but the book sort of has this weird twist to it as Ellie's family is technically a criminal family as they break into houses stealing jewelry and other valuables.  Throughout the book, Ellie does reevaluate her own actions, as well as that of her family's, as she works with Major Ramsey to solve the conspiracy and she is uncomfortable with the truth and with her family's criminal activities.  I like that she tries to justify her behaviour but can't really come up with a reason for her justifications to stick.  Criminal activity is criminal activity.  
And while I did enjoy the other characters and hope to learn about them in further instalments, please preserve me from the love triangle I see forming between Felix, Major Ramsey, and Ellie.  Why does there always have to be a story line where two men don't get along simply because they have feelings for the same woman?  And the two men are pretty stereotypical; the major is stiff and serious, but you get the feeling there are deep emotions running through him, and the other grew up with Ellie and is a childhood friend whose relationship is potentially blossoming into something more.  Predictable? Yes. And while I liked Major Ramsey and I can see where the author is pushing Ellie, I am really hoping she does something unpredictable, like in the Anne Perry books with Monk and Hester.  
The story itself was interesting, but it did have a tendency to move slowly as the author was setting up the setting, the back stories, and the characters.  I didn't personally find the mystery all that absorbing; maybe it was all the other WWII books I have been reading lately, but I did find the character development intriguing. That being said, I do think the author struggled quite a bit with Ellie's independence and the time period as having Ellie state multiple times that she was an independent woman, but needed men to constantly watch over her, got old, fast.

A Peculiar Combination is a good start to a new series.  The main characters were interesting and definitely likable, but the plot was a bit slow and I thought the author spent too much time trying to develop intrigue between Ellie and Major Ramsey instead of developing a suspenseful mystery.  I do think the series has potential so I will be taking a look at the next book when it is published.  If you are looking for something light and easy to read, then this book is for you.