After the intensity of Holy Week and Easter and the fun of my birthday celebrations yesterday, today I’ve felt like doing nothing more strenuous than sitting in the sun with an entertaining book. As it happens, I have the perfect one close at hand – funny, intriguing and with an unexpectedly stinging twist to the tale.
It’s one of the Maxwell mysteries by M J Trow, an author I only recently discovered, though I’m making up for lost time as fast as I can (sadly the earlier ones are now out-of-print). The central character of the series is Peter “Mad Max” Maxwell, a middle-aged history teacher (as is his creator) with a talent for tripping over corpses and an insatiable thirst for justice that won’t let him ignore them.
In the constantly changing landscape that is modern education, Mad Max is a fixed point of politically-incorrect eccentricity, stubborn, not to say pig-headed, persistence, and a heavily camouflaged, but still tangible and deep humanity. He is also very, very funny.
The books aren’t great literature, but they are intelligent and strongly-plotted mysteries and extremely well-written, with a bitingly sardonic wit and a hero who both amuses and infuriates. In addition, for anyone interested in how teenagers have been educated over the past 15 years, they give an acutely-observed insider’s view of life at the chalk-face (oops, white-board). To me they are ideal holiday reading. What’s yours?