Book Review Club: Dinosaurs, Dodos and Time Traveling Historians

Just One Damned Thing After AnotherJust One Damned Thing After Another
(The Chronicles of St. Mary’s)
by Jodi Taylor

The title comes from a quote by Alfred Toynbee: “Some historians hold that history … is just one damned thing after another.” The series takes place in England at St. Mary’s, part of Thirsk University, at an unspecified point in the future. Time travel is a reality, but only the historians at St. Mary’s get to go back in time, and strictly to observe. Dire consequences ensue when someone messes with history, however inadvertently. The main character is Madeleine Maxwell, a historian and university professor who came from an abusive background. We know she had a terrible childhood, but fortunately, Taylor doesn’t go into detail, which was fine with me. Max is damaged, though, and her social skills aren’t always the best. She’s perfect for the eccentric crew at St. Mary’s. She joins the ranks of the time traveling historians in book one and finds more adventure than anyone could bargain for.

Here’s the blurb:

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’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet. Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting. Follow the catastrophe curve from eleventh-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 …

The story is intelligent, adventurous, often very funny, and a little romantic, though the body count is fairly high. Who would expect historian to be a dangerous job? But given the chance to go back in time, what else could be expected?

A Symphony of Echoes is the second book in the series, and it builds on what happened in the first installment. This time, they discover that items (and living creatures) that are destined to be destroyed can be safely brought into the future, so the team sets out to save historic treasures where possible, including the dodo. The Great Dodo Hunt is hilarious. Quote: “I was rapidly concluding that their extinction might not have been completely man’s fault. Dodos — our dodos anyway — displayed the parenting skills of a brick.”

I look forward to reading the rest of the series and recommend it highly.

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Linda / Lyndi

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11 thoughts on “Book Review Club: Dinosaurs, Dodos and Time Traveling Historians

  1. I think this sounds brilliant! Did you ever read any of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next mysteries? I think you’d love them. I’ve only read The Eyre Affair. Very clever in a similar way as One Damned Thing After Another. I think. Thanks for reviewing, Linda!

  2. Sounds good! I’m not usually into time travel, but the idea of historians using for research purpose is intriguing, especially since I have a degree in history. Thanks for reviewing.

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