December 10, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Ashley Weaver’s Playing It Safe Is The Best in Electra McDonnell Series, Yet- Review

Playing It Safe (Electra McDonnell #3) By Ashley Weaver- Summary

Goodreads summary of Playing It Safe (Electra McDonnell #3) By Ashley Weaver (review, no spoilers below)- As the Blitz continues to ravage London, Ellie McDonnell—formerly a safecracking thief, but currently determined to stay on the straight and narrow to help her country—is approached by British Intelligence officer Major Ramsey with a new assignment. She is to travel under an assumed identity to the port city of Sunderland, and there await further instructions. In his usual infuriating way, the Major has left her task as vague and mysterious as possible.

Ellie, ever-ready to aid her country, heads north, her safecracking tools in tow. But before she can rendezvous with the major, she witnesses an unnatural death. A man falls dead in the street in front of her, with a note clutched in his hand. Ellie’s instincts tell her that the man’s death is connected in some way to her mission.

Soon, Ellie and the Major are locked in a battle of wits and a race against time with an unknown and deadly adversary and a case that leads them to a possible Nazi counterfeiting operation. With bombs dropping on the city and a would-be assassin shadowing their every move, it will take all of Ellie’s resourcefulness and Major Ramsey’s fortitude to unmask the spymaster and avert disastrous consequences—for England and for their own lives.

Playing It Safe (Electra McDonnell #3) By Ashley Weaver- Review

This was a buddy read with Becky at Crooksbooks.blog. I will link her review when posted.

The Electra McDonnell Mystery series is one of few that is easy to review without spoilers. It is truly a phenomenal series, but it can also be read as a stand-alone. I wish you good luck because, from the first book in the Electra McDonnell Mystery series, Ashley Weaver will have you hooked. There are a couple of over-arching plot lines and characters. So, you would miss the family connections and mystery surrounding them. Beyond that, each mystery is contained in a way that can easily be read independently.

Speaking of the family mystery. OH BOY! There are no spoilers here, but it is by far one of my favorite parts of the series. And it continues into book three. Ellie keeps digging into the mystery around her parents, and Ashley Weaver doesn’t disappoint in Playing It Safe. Nothing is resolved, but more breadcrumbs are dropped, and I WANT MORE.

Even though this is the third book in the Electra McDonnell Series, nothing is stale. The mysteries keep changing, and part of that is because in Playing It Safe, Ashley Weaver shifts Ellie out of London and to Sunderland. This is essential for a couple of reasons. One, the change of scenery automatically shifts the perspective of the war. We have seen the war from London’s point of view. Now we get to see it from the view of a seaside town. Threats still loom from the bombing of England. Women’s boarding houses are conscious of looking out for each other, and everyone is quick to be home by dark. We will get to the second in the next section.


Thank you to MacMillan Audio and Minotaur for the advanced audio copy.

Per usual, and much to Ellie’s dismay, the Major sends her to Sutherland with little instruction or information. Too bad that upon her arrival, a man plummets from a window in front of her. The fact that this man just saved Ellie’s life and clutches a mysterious note makes it all the more uncanny. Ellie is sure this is part of why she is in Sutherland and gets to work, Major Ramsey be damned. After all, he did tell her to make nice with the locals.

Electra McDonnell Series

Soon Ellie finds herself entrenched in the dead man’s circle of friends and in the company of an officer stationed in Sutherland. None of these characters seem innocent, yet it is hard to parse out who might be guilty. It is everyone and no one, all at once. One thing that won’t come as a surprise to anyone is that Ellie soon believes whatever is happening is a threat to the English and is in support of the Nazis. And when the Major and Ellie break into a local, seemingly abandoned printing press, what they find is even worse than suspected.

Soon, Ellie, the Major, and many others’ lives are in peril as the adventure and danger ramp up, leaving me gripped by each page. I will say that I believe the adventure and danger were a notch more than in the last two books.

Playing It Safe (Electra McDonnell #3) By Ashley Weaver- Characters

Remember when I mentioned the change of scenery? Here is how Sunderland keeps the Electra McDonnel Series from becoming stale. In Playing It Safe, Ashley Weaver gets to flex her chops in creating new characters for the supporting cast.

ReviewPlaying It Safe (Electra McDonnell Mystery #3) By Ashley Weaver, released on May 9th by Minotaur Books

Removed from her family circle, Major Ramsey is the only other familiar character that plays a significant role. This gives essential groups, like the circle of friends surrounding the man that plummeted to his death in front of Ellie, room to breathe. Ashley Weaver does a fantastic job creating and developing these characters throughout this singular book. One of the most enjoyable characters is an eccentric bird aficionado and collector. His addition stands out on the joy factor.

Playing It Safe (Electra McDonnell #3) By Ashley Weaver- Final Thoughts/Audiobook

I don’t have much to say about the audiobook. It is told from Ellie’s point of view, without any time jumps. Alison Larkin continues voicing Ellie, as she has throughout the series, and does a phenomenal job.

Overall, if you like The Electra McDonnell Series, you will love Playing It Safe. If you haven’t had a chance to reading the first two books? You will still love the ride Ashley Weaver takes you on.

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