“History is just one damned thing after another.” —Arnold Toynbee
Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.
The first thing you learn on the job at St. Mary’s is that one wrong move and history will fight back—sometimes in particularly nasty ways. But, as new recruit Madeleine Maxwell soon discovers, it’s not only history they’re often fighting.
The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Max and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Chief Leon Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea.
From eleventh-century London to World War I, from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria, one thing is for sure: wherever the historians at St. Mary’s go, chaos is sure to follow in their wake.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
There have been two moments in my life. Moments when everything changed. Moments when things could have gone either way. Moments when I had to make a choice.
The first occurred when, after another disruptive day at school, I stood in front of my head teacher, Mrs De Winter. I’d done the sullen silence thing and waited for expulsion, because I was long past three strikes and you’re out. It didn’t happen.
She said, with a strange urgency, ‘Madeleine, you cannot let your home circumstances define your entire life. You are intelligent – you have abilities of which you are not even aware. This is the only chance you will ever have. I can help you. Will you allow me to do so?’
No one had ever offered to help me before. Something flickered inside me, but distrust and suspicion die hard.
She said, softly, ‘I can help you. Last chance, Madeleine. Yes – or no?’
No words came. I was trapped in a prison of my own making.
‘Yes – or no?’
I took a huge breath and said yes.
She handed me a book, a notepad and two pens.
‘We’ll start with Ancient Egypt. Read the first two chapters and chapter Six. You must learn to assimilate, edit and present information. I want 1500 words on the precise nature of ma’at. By Friday.’
I whispered, ‘But…you know I can’t take this home.’
‘You can use the school library and leave your stuff there. Miss Hughes is expecting you.’
That was the first time.
The second time came ten years later. An email – right out of the blue.
My dear Madeleine,
I am sure you will be surprised to hear from me, but I have to say that, since you left the University of Thirsk, I have followed your career with great interest and some pride. I am writing now with details of a job opportunity I think you will find extremely interesting.
You will be aware, from your time at Thirsk, of the existence of a sister site; the St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research; an organisation I think would appeal to anyone who, like you, prefers a less structured existence. Their work inclines more towards the practical side of historical research. This is all I can say at the moment.
The Institute is located just outside Rushford, where I now reside, and interviews are on the fourth of next month. Do you think you would be interested? I feel it would be just the thing for you, so I do hope you will consider it. Your travels and archaeological experience will stand you in good stead and I really think you are exactly the type of person for whom they are looking.
The pay is terrible and the conditions are worse, but it’s a wonderful place to work – they have some talented people there. If you are interested, please click on the link below to set up a possible interview.
I’m so sorry; where are my manners? I was so anxious to let you know about this opportunity that I forgot to ask – how are you? Congratulations on your academic record at Thirsk, Doctor Maxwell! It is always gratifying to see a former pupil do so well, particularly one who laboured under so many difficulties in her early years.
Please do not reject this opportunity out of hand. I know you have always preferred to work abroad, but given the possibility that America may close its borders again and the fragmentation within the EU, perhaps now is the time to consider a slightly more settled lifestyle.
Obviously I’m very keen for you to apply, but don’t let me influence you in any way!
With best regards,
Sibyl De Winter
I always said my life began properly the day I walked through the gates of St Mary’s