Review: ‘Just One Damned Thing After Another’ by Jodi Taylor

Just One Damned Thing After Another (Chronicles of St. Mary's) by [Jodi Taylor]I forget now how I happened across this entertaining first book in Taylor’s substantial series ‘The Chronicles of St Mary’s’. But from the first page I realised I was in the presence of an author after my own heart.

Taylor is a British author who worked for the North Yorkshire County Council for almost 20 years (I sympathise – six years in local government was enough for me). One of her positions during that time was as library facilities manager. Could this have informed her creation of the barking mad organisation which is St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research?

This book began life self-published on two download websites, was subsequently purchased by Accent Press, which published all her subsequent works through to December 2018, when the whole lot were picked up by Headline Publishing Group. Taylor is proof that if your idea and your writing are good enough you can rise from indie author to a nice pad in Gloucestershire. I salute her.

This series is a delightful mashup. The basic premise is that it has become possible to visit times and places in history. (I won’t explain the McGuffin.) Thus a certain sort of historian (one with more curiosity than common sense, for instance) can now visit the time and place they are researching and come back with definitive proof of what it was like. This information is then drip-fed into history books and school curricula. Yes, tampering with the timeline is dangerous. Yes, you can easily become cut off from your fellow travellers and medical assistance. In fact, the whole thing is fraught with peril, which is sometimes hilarious and sometimes genuinely scary. There are elements of historical, Jurassic, romantic, quest, thriller and crime fiction in the book. In fact it might be easier to list what isn’t in the book than to say what is. At times it is quite brutal (Taylor does not flinch from killing off characters one has come to care for), but most of the time it is rip-roaringly funny and not a little thought-provoking.

These books are substantial (400-odd pages), and there are some 13 of them. They are also not inexpensive, even on Kindle (presumably this is Headline recouping its investment). If I were you I’d badger your library to get them (my library has several, although – irritatingly – not the first one). If you still have a library. And when it re-opens. Tell them that – especially in these parlous times – these books are so feel-good that they count as a pick-me-up.

 

 

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