Just One Damned Thing After Another is the first in Jodi Taylor’s “The Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series. This novel was first published in 2013; as of this review there are eight novels. This is one of the novels that was hanging around my household and was another effort to read something other than vintage mystery or science fiction. Honestly, I am not sure what genre this novel fits in, anyway.
So, I felt that this novel had a lot of potential. And I really like what the author wanted to do, her overall concept. But I really disliked the way she did it. This was a disappointing read for me because I wanted something better.
The main character is Madeleine Maxwell. She is presented to the reader straightaway as a little out of the norm. She is a difficult personality and yet also very bright. Overall, the author writes the character with a lot of wit and that makes her rather likeable. I do not always need character-driven stories. I mean, I rarely feel it enhances the story to “connect” in some way with the characters. Many times I approach characters as “elements” of a novel and I just need them to be functional and realistic. Shame on me, I know. It is always a good thing when I do not avidly actively dislike the main character.
So there is a grand idea here. The main character is hired by an independent research facility that operates alongside of, but not entirely in concert with, a university. And perhaps with some governmental funding. Its all rather shady and there is a bit of secrecy here. St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research hires and trains researchers: scientists and historians.
For time travel.
I know, I know. Everyone just grimaced and groaned. Because when has there ever been a successful novel about time travel? I get it – I see that the concept is just a sinkhole for authors. Hear me out, though….
This rendition of time travel does not involve any science. What I mean is: there is no explanation of how the time travel works – it even reads quite a bit like a big box that gets powered up and goes Zap! into the past. Is this bad writing? No, because if you do not even try to get into how the thing works, it is a way to avoid making nonsense up about the whole thing!
And that is one of the problems I had with this book. The writing seems very flighty and all over the place. The plot is very busy and feels quite haphazard. It seemed like the author had a bunch of cool ideas she wanted her main character to experience, but that the author did not know how to weave them into a completed, homogeneous work.
The plot is really choppy and disjointed. And for such a wide open concept, all of the scenes and threads needed to be a lot smoother before this got published. Well, at least in my opinion. Since the series is on eight novels – and has a somewhat sincere following of readers, I suppose I am in the minority. Anyway, when I say “choppy,” I mean that scenes are very quick and things happen and then there are other plot points that are mentioned and then we are given hints and a trajectory only to be whisked away from that path onto another unrelated one.
The author jams a lot of stuff in this book – but its all superficial stuff. At a Historical Research center I would truly really expect a little more depth and research on the author’s part. I can overlook the superficial treatment of how the time travel works because its better than silly talk. But everything else cannot be that superficial, too. Maybe instead of trying to jam so much into one book, the author should have picked one general trajectory for the storyline, blended just two genres, and then written a more researched novel. Instead, this whole thing is a mess.
And there are two explicit sex scenes in this one – and neither scene is palatable. Both are near-rape scenes and obnoxious and stupid. These are the main reason I cannot recommend the book to anyone.
Finally, its painfully obvious that with all the creativity that the author has – and playing on such a large canvas – she should have been able to write a much more compelling story. It needed to be just plain old more interesting. Now, sure, the main character is likeable; she is witty and snarky. But if readers can only appreciate the novel because of its snarky character, I think that demonstrates that it is not a completed work. It is not enough to merely write sarcasm.