New Read: Just One Damned Thing After Another

In the last week of August, as I jetted off for Rome, I decided to finally give Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor, the first book in the Chronicles of St Mary’s, a go – hoping for something light and fun to enjoy on the flight; and I was not to be disappointed!

It all begins, when Madeleine Maxwell (known as Maxwell) is urged, by her mentor, to apply for the seemingly innocuous role of Historian at the rather eccentric St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. However, Maxwell is to discover this is not your usual, dull desk job, but instead an opportunity of a lifetime. St Mary’s actually has a way for the Historians to physically travel back in time to observe, document, and to try to find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions … whilst trying not to tamper with the timeline or to die in the process, as one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death – and it is soon made clear that it’s not just History they’re fighting.

I thought it was an absolute hoot travelling with Maxwell and her fellow Historians from 11th century London to a field hospital in World War I, and from dinosaur watching in the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria. But nothing is to be straightforward as wherever Historians go, chaos seems to follow! While we don’t spend a large amount of time in each period, I felt Taylor described them adequately and made them feel real and distinct for me.

I also loved the little, time travel ‘pods’ the Historians used to transport back in. They are pretty much portable offices/homes, which are well stocked with equipment, food, clothes, beds, showers and a kettle; because there is no problem that can’t be figured out over a good cup of tea! If you are a science-fiction buff, I warn you there is no real scientific explanation of how the ‘pods’ worked, however for me that was absolutely fine as scientific detail would go straight over my head – I was perfectly happy to accept they worked and to hop on board for the ride.

Our narrator for all this, Maxwell, is a clever, stubborn, resourceful and strong woman, who is also a chaos magnet! She is joined in her adventures by many other characters – some friends and some enemies – as St Mary’s is like one big eccentric family. Made up of not just Historians but also scientists, engineers, technicians, trainers, medical staff, librarians and kitchen staff (you can get food anytime at St Mary’s). On top of all this, there is also a love interest for Maxwell, while I generally enjoyed this relationship, I could have done with less bedroom gymnastics details.

All in all though, I thought Just One Damned Thing After Another was a fantastical, time-travelling romp and a perfect quick, easy read for my holiday. I would very happily go back to St Mary’s … actually I would like to work there, perhaps I could make the tea?! No? Oh well, maybe I will just have to read the other books instead. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any other time travel adventures?

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18 thoughts on “New Read: Just One Damned Thing After Another

  1. This sounds like loads of fun! That’s the job I’ve always dreamed of, travelling into the past – so long as I could be sure I wouldn’t get stuck there. And it comes as a relief to know people will still be drinking tea in the future – in a lot of futuristic sci-fi they seem to have given up on tea and coffee for some reason, and never eat cake!

  2. Love the idea of those pods because there is one thing I would miss seriously from ventures into the past are the hygiene facilities. I can’t go long without a shower and a flushing loo

    1. Don’t rely on those showers always working or always being in pristine condition. When Lingoss and Sykes try to hide a frightened baby mammoth in there the result is rather more than pungent.

  3. As you get further into the series you will discover that Max would welcome you with open arms to make the tea; her PA, Miss Lee, is less than forthcoming in this respect. I discovered this series over the summer when I was ill and read right through all eight novels and the short stories in between. I’m sure they hastened my recovery. Two words of warning: be prepared for moments of sheer heartbreak and don’t ever try and read the ‘funny’ bits to people who haven’t read the books – they just won’t get it. I could quote you lines from book eight that have me in stitches every time, but as you haven’t met Matthew, Bashford or Sykes yet the funny side of it just won’t be apparent. Once you know them the perfection of the scene will have you in hysterics.

    1. Café Society, I am so pleased you enjoyed this and the rest of the series – I can imagine they were wonderful to read when cooped up ill – it sounds like I definitely need to put the rest of the books on my wish list 🙂

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