Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
Digital Audiobook narrated by Zara Ramm
Published by Audible Studios on June 1, 2013
Series: The Chronicles of St. Mary's #1
Genres: Adventure, Fiction, Science Fiction, Time Travel
Length: 322 pages or 9 hours, 30 minutes
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Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.
The first thing you learn on the job at St. Mary’s is that one wrong move and history will fight back—sometimes in particularly nasty ways. But, as new recruit Madeleine Maxwell soon discovers, it’s not only history they’re often fighting.
The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Max and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Leon “Chief” Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea.
From eleventh-century London to World War I, from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria, one thing is for sure: wherever the historians at St. Mary’s go, chaos is sure to follow in their wake.
When I was in college, people constantly asked: “What are you going to do with a history degree?” Right now, I’m using it for absolutely nothing, although I have no regrets. Learning more about the Crusades and Atlantic history and Ancient Rome was incredible. If I could have stayed in school forever, learning more about the cultural evolution of humanity, I would, have. Unfortunately, life is not perfect, and I work in finance. If the world was perfect, I would be using my degree as a historian for St. Mary’s.
I had zero expectations for this book. It wasn’t on my TBR. It was a $3 Daily Deal from Audible in 2016, and looked just interesting enough for me to say, “sure, why not?” I thought the title was hilarious, and so it was added to my digital library. I didn’t expect to fall in love with Max and St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s is a historical research facility attached to Thurst college. It’s a small institution, remaining under the radar. The application process is quite rigorous. The training doubly so. These historians aren’t studying archaeological evidence. At least, not in the traditional way. St. Mary’s is in possession of six time machines, and it is the job of the historians to go back in time and observe history, then report their findings back to Thurst in the form of extraordinary presentations supported with technical evidence.
History occasionally disapproves of this process, of course, and there is the odd casualty.
Erm. Okay, the very common fatality. But the historians know what they’re getting into from day one.
This novel absolutely captured my imagination. There’s not many people captivated by history, but those of us who are, are very passionate. Max is a new trainee with St. Mary’s, but she is by no means a green student. She has a doctorate in history with a focus in Ancient Cultures (have I mentioned I love Max? I love Max.) She is a bit of a loner, but not a Rebel Without A Cause. She gets in so many scrapes and tumbles throughout the novel that I spent a lot of time in high angst, scratching my head and wondering how the bloody hell she was going to get out of this one. She’s smart, but horribly unlucky. She trusts too easily and acts a bit rashly.
Have I mentioned the dinosaurs? There are dinosaurs in this book. I won’t discuss that more, because I was *delighted* when I discovered there would be dinosaurs and I don’t want to give too much away. Think all the best of Michael Crichton’s imagination with the charm and spark of a witty British heroine.
One of Jodi Taylor’s strengths is that she follows through on her choices. As a writer, I appreciate the fine line between dictating the direction of your story letting the pieces fall in place. As I listened to this audiobook (small aside, excellent narration on this one), I felt like Max kept leading the story herself and I would imagine Miss Taylor in front of her computer downing glass after glass of robust red wine and violently cursing her headstrong characters as she struggled to make them follow her outline. I *adore* books like that. You feel an internal struggle, and since this book has comedic elements, it was perfect.
Along with that, the writing was shocking and funny. There were moments of great stress, but there were also moments that made me laugh out loud. Which wasn’t awkward at *all* on a bus filled with edgy Americans en route to Paris…. I loved it, even if I felt a bit foolish.
Just One Damned Thing After Another falls within the range of New Adult. Max is just post-doctorate, but the tone is light (a la Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams) and doesn’t feel properly like an adult book. It has a few mature themes – there’s a brief, tasteful sex scene – but nothing too gruesome or graphic for the YA audience.
For what it’s worth, I loved this book. I’m so glad there’s 8 more in the series so far (not including short stories). Also, I’d like to be Max when I grow up. That is all.