I know that St. Mary’s and the Time Police have reached an accommodation in the past few books, where previously they were basically at war but I still couldn’t imagine how Jodi Taylor, author of books where flawed heroes muddle through, wrangling chaos as they go, driven mainly by passionate curiosity, sustained by cups of tea and by always saying that you’re ‘fine’ if anyone is crass enough to ask, would make heroes of the black-uniformed, jack-booted, heavily-armed, hierarchical, para-military, ruling-enforcing Time Police.
The answer turned out to be – through empathy. Jodi Taylor starts by thinking about the kinds of people who would join the Time Police as raw recruits. Why would they do it? What did they want to achieve? Why weren’t they doing something else?.
She imagines three new recruits with very different personalities and motivations, who join up mostly to escape from elements of their home lives. She makes one arrogant, privileged, lazy and (annoyingly) also good looking, bright and, when he’s not being a prat, quite brave. Another whose abusive background has stripped her of her confidence and who is convinced she’ll fail if she’s given enough opportunities. And finally, and this is a stroke of genius, Max’s son – the boy who was raised at Time Police HQ and is also the darling of St. Mary’s which is led by both of his parents – the boy who broke the time map – the boy who, before he was rescued, was raised feral and who still refuses to cut his hair.
Then we get the adventures of these three misfits as they form into a team. You might imagine that this involves a series of time jumps that allow them to grow as individuals and depend upon each other as a team and you’d be right. Except for the bits where the team starts to fall apart, where one of them is charged with a murder they think that one of the others actually did and the three of them end up going rogue and evading both the Time Police and Saint Mary’s.
Doing Time was entertaining, fast-paced fun and was free of the gloom and angst that has stalked the most recent St. Mary’s novels.
It was a good start and I’ll be back for more in Hard Time, the second book in the series.