There are few career options for historians. There’s teaching, of course, and writing for the luckier ones. A few might be able to get jobs as consultants in the entertainment industry. If only historians had the option that newly minted Dr. Maxwell takes at the beginning of Jodi Taylor’s romping novel, Just One Damned Thing After Another: time traveler. This opening novel in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s series establishes what is sure to be an epic battle between the historians of St. Mary’s and criminals who would mine history for profit.
Max does not fit the stereotype of a historian. I’m pretty sure she owns no tweed and she’s the kind of smartass who is constantly irritating authority figures. The stereotype is not just thrown out the window but launched out of a metaphorical cannon by Max and the crew at St. Mary’s. No one there is normal. It’s only after her entrance interview that Max learns why there are so many technicians running around and why there is a curiously authentic wardrobe for all times and places. St. Mary’s, you see, has figured out time travel. Their mission is to investigate historical mysteries and report back to the University of Thirsk and some mysterious, nameless people with a lot of money.
At least, that’s what Max is told at the beginning. The longer Max works for St. Mary’s the more she learns about a gang of time traveling renegades who violate laws and ethics at every turn. Fortunately, Max has a talent for nonlinear thinking and enough stubborn bravery to carry out wild plans. Just One Damned Thing After Another is highly episodic and we see Max visit the Cretaceous, one of the destructions of the Library of Alexandria, Wat Tyler’s rebellion, and other dangerous settings. Her total lack of respect for bureaucracy and quick wit had me frequently laughing even as Max and her friends get chased by dinosaurs or shot at by thieves.
This book was just the pick-me-up I needed.