The Time Police do not have problems. They have challenges.
Idiots who want to change history have always proved ‘challenging’. But now temporal tourism is on the rise – highly illegal but highly lucrative. If you’re prepared to take the risk.
To face down this threat the Time Police will despatch their toughest undercover agents. Which is fine until the unthinkable happens. Replacements are needed fast, and who better than three young officers who don’t even look the part?
Step forward Jane, Luke and Matthew. They may be about to graduate, but there’s still plenty of time for everything to go wrong.
Throw in the Versailles time slip, a covert jump to ancient Egypt and a race against time itself and you’ve got yourself an assignment worthy of Team Weird.
‘Hard Time’ was a pleasant surprise. It reminded me of the tone of early St Mary’s books.
The beat of the story is set by bouncy humour that grips optimism like a shield to fend off self-doubt and deep-rooted fears and to keep an emotional distance from all the unpleasant things the world throws at you. I like the snark in the humour but what I like most is the affection and trust that it builds between the characters.
Yet, like the best of the St Mary’s books, there’s more to ‘Hard Time’ than a bit of banter and team building. In ‘Hard Time’. Team Weird are out of training and into the real world and the real world can be a very unpleasant place. The plot that Team Weird uncover and attempt to thwart is a dark one that speaks to human cruelty and greed. It felt horrible plausible. When I realised what the bad guys were doing, I was, for the first time, able to see the Time Police not just as thugs ruthlessly protecting the timeline but as the only possible response to malevolent, powerful sociopathy. The Time Police may be bastards that everyone is scared of but this time, they were the bastards everyone needed.
I liked the way the characters in Team Weird and in the leadership of the Time Police were rounded out. We got to see more of where they came from and of the attitudes and circumstances that had shaped them. It was nicely done. No one got a sainthood but my empathy for most of the characters was increased.
As usual, the time travel pieces and the action scenes were well done. This time the action scenes had more bite to them. These were Time Police action scenes, not St Mary’s actions scenes. The mindset was military and uncompromising rather than academic and improvising. It takes skill to get the nuance of this right. There was one point when St. Mary’s got involved and, although they were helpful and ingenious, seeing them through the eyes of the Time Police, they seemed undisciplined, unfocused and unreliable – except for the fact that everything they did worked.
To me, this series has found its legs now. It’s no longer an off-shoot of St. Mary’s. It’s a whole world of its own. I’m looking forward to finding out more about it in the next book, ‘Saving Time’, which is already on my shelves.
I recommend the audiobook version of ‘Hard Time’, Zara Ramm’s narration is pretty close to perfect. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.