Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

I’ve been curious about The Chronicles of St Mary’s for a while; I enjoy anything to do with time travel, so I thought there was a good chance that I would like these books, but you can never be sure. That’s why, when the publisher made several of the books in the series available through NetGalley a few months ago, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try the first one and see what it was like.

Just One Damned Thing After Another (the title is taken from a quote by Arnold Toynbee) introduces us to Madeleine Maxwell who, as the novel opens, is encouraged by her old schoolteacher and mentor, Mrs de Winter, to apply for the position of historian at St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. Max, as she is known, is instantly intrigued; she has had a passion for history since discovering a book about Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt as a child. She applies for the job and is invited for an interview, but as she is shown around her future place of work, she quickly becomes aware that this is no ordinary academic institute…and that the historians of St Mary’s are no ordinary historians.

The Institute has developed a form of time travel which allows the historians to travel back in time inside fully equipped ‘pods’ in order to investigate some of history’s many mysteries – large and small – at first-hand. From “being able to say with authority, ‘Yes, the Princes in the Tower were alive at the end of Richard III’s reign, I know because I saw them with my own eyes’” to understanding the secret of Greek Fire and how to handle a Roman chariot, the possibilities are endless. But so are the dangers: pods that malfunction with terrifying results, hostile groups of rival time travellers, as well as all the other hazards you would expect to find on a journey into a less enlightened time. Max and her friends are constantly getting into trouble – particularly Max, who seems to attract disaster like a magnet – but they see it as a risk worth taking in return for being able to see and experience so many wonderful things.

We don’t learn a huge amount about any of the historical periods to which Max travels (only the Cretaceous period has a significant amount of time devoted to it), but that’s not really the point of the book. The enjoyment is in following the adventures Max and the other St Mary’s historians have as they travel through time – and in sympathising with Max’s various accidents and mishaps, some of which are her own fault, but certainly not all! The story is narrated in Max’s own strong and humorous voice, which adds to the sense of fun.

Apart from Max herself, though, I didn’t feel that I got to know any of the other characters very well, but maybe they will be developed further in future books. Although I don’t feel the compulsion to continue with this series immediately (I did enjoy meeting Max, but I think I would find it a bit overwhelming to spend too long in her company), I do still plan to read the second book and am looking forward to finding out where the historians will travel to next. And of course, now I’m wondering where I would choose to go if I had one of the St Mary’s pods at my disposal…

This is book 9/20 of my 20 Books of Summer.

Thanks to Headline for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.

20 thoughts on “Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

  1. piningforthewest says:

    I’m just wondering why an author would use the names of Mrs de Winter and Max, a tribute to Daphne du Maurier maybe but it seems strange.

  2. cirtnecce says:

    This is super intriguing, though I am still wondering if I would actually enjoy it! Maybe I should attempt a few chapters before I buy the book! Thank You for a great review!

  3. Elizabeth Bailey says:

    I love this series. Found it completely addictive. Funny, clever, different, poignant, romantic. It’s got everything. The characters are endearing and the situations, though near farcical, often suspenseful too. The new one each year is an auto buy for me, tho i think it’s coming to an end as a spin off is just beginning.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, this book was certainly different and I’m sure I’ll be continuing with the second one at some point. I hope you enjoy the spin-off as much as the original series.

  4. Café Society says:

    I am addicted to this series. You are right in thinking that you will get to know other characters better as the books progress, especially Tim Peterson and Markham, who hardly features in this novel but becomes one of the main and most loveable actors as the series continues. Do find time to read on. You won’t regret it.

    • Helen says:

      I’m definitely planning to read at least the second book – and then hopefully I’ll become addicted too. It’s good to know that I’ll get to know the other characters better later in the series.

  5. tbr313 says:

    I was really interested to read this, I’d heard such good things about the series, but I found it confusing – so many people, many of whom appeared only to meet a bad end. I haven’t been inspired to pick up the next.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I know what you mean – there were so many characters that apart from Max herself, I didn’t feel there was time to get to know any of them, especially as some of them didn’t last very long! I will probably read the next one, but I’m not in a hurry.

  6. jessicabookworm says:

    Like you Helen, I thought this book was jolly good fun, but I wasn’t immediately grabbed to read on. However I do have book 2 and 3 (I think) waiting on my Kindle, and I hope to read them soon. 🙂

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