Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s #1), Jodi Taylor

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“History is important. Far more important than most people believe. And it is under attack.”

Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a different kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Follow the catastrophe curve from 11th-century London to World War I, and from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria. For wherever Historians go, chaos is sure to follow in their wake…

* * * * * 
5 / 5

Hilarious, witty, banterous, serious, disturbing, and light-hearted. Just One Damned Thing After Another made me feel just one damned emotion after another: I felt intrigued and amused and in awe and afraid and disgusted and impressed. I ran the whole gamut of emotions and closed the book feeling both extremely satisfied and yet wanting more.

“Please be honest, Dr Maxwell, is this admirable calm because deep down, very deep down, you think I’m clearly insane and this is going to be one to tell in the pub tonight?”

“Actually, Dr Bairstow, deep down, very deep down, I’m having a shit-hot party.”

Madeleine Maxwell is a historian by degree and she’s looking for a job (aren’t we all?). She’s recommended to interview at St. Mary’s without ever really being told what exactly they do; St. Mary’s tagline is that they explore major historical events in contemporary time. Simply put, they time travel. Say someone wants to find out if their ancestor did die of old age or was actually poisoned by their scheming heir, they pay St. Mary’s to “investigate”, presumably thinking this means doing some reading. St. Mary’s sends a team back in time to record what actually happened. Cool stuff.

I think I liked this book so much because it felt, weirdly, a little bit like a Star Trek adventure. There’s the excitement of the missions, the joy of “first contact”, the varied cast of diverse people, and small, snarky interactions between them. Madeleine – known personally and professionally as Max – is a joy. She felt like a twist on the typical kind of “Bella Swan” kind of character – she’s clumsy and a little bit dense in love, but she’s also hotheaded and passionate and brave and so wonderfully, desperately in love with the past. She’s witty and banterous and sexy and afraid; Max felt human.

There have been two moments in my life when everything changed

I was particularly impressed by how finely Just One Damned Thing After Another walked the line between being surprising and having a strong plot. It’s often the unfortunate case that books that surprise me in terms of plot twists and character developments are surprising because they are ridiculous, or because the book has felt so directionless that I had no idea what was happening. This book has a strong if somewhat standard plot – Max becoming acquainted with timetravel and the missions of being a historian, with a “twist” where she discovers something shocking in the past – that continually surprised me. I was on the edge of my seat. One of the revelations was somewhat horrifying and made me feel physically ill, but it somehow didn’t feel distasteful or out of character.

Just One Damned Thing After Another has a wide range of reviews: for some it was a bit of a miss, and for others (like me) it was an absolute hit. This book doesn’t take itself too seriously and takes one on a voyage through time and space. The only complaint I have was the romance (Max deserves better).

My thanks to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for an ARC of this book.

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