Monday, April 25, 2011

A jolly good read

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?


  1. Hello:
    Having read all that Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly currently have to offer, I am in need of a new source of murder and mystery. So, your recommended book sounds just the kind of thing that I could be looking for [although Lance would try to steer me in his preferred directions of William Trevor or Helen Dunmore].

    As we have both spent many years in education in one role or another, the central character has much to intrigue us both. We shall certainly be seeking out a title, if not more!!

  2. I haven't come across this it's on my list for ordering.

    I'm still chewing over what I saw and learned here over the Easter period....but for relaxing, nothing beats P.G. Wodehouse!

  3. Sounds like a good read. I'm a sucker for Wodehouse, too, and also Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries; but the last couple of days I've been reading Pride and Prejudice (for the umpteenth time) on my iPod while in between things.

  4. I like the sound of this author Perpetua. When next in the library will see what they can do.
    Haven't read anything but theology and other books on religion for almost two years now. Time for a change!

  5. Glad to have intrigued you all with my recommendation :-) Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the earlier titles are out of print and some of the secondhand prices on Amazon are extortionate!

    It's a while since I read either Wodehouse or the Lord Peter Whimsy books, though I've read all of them in the past. There always seem to be so many new outhors to explore that I don't tend to reread things so often nowadays.

    So many books, so little time.....

  6. Apologies, Jane and Lance. I should have thanked you for telling me who you're reading. I haven't read any Michael Connelly, so must look out for him next time I go to the library. if you like crime writers, have you tried Donna Leon, the subject of my previous Good Read post? She's super!

  7. Don't know this author - I always feel a bit ashamed acknowledging there's an author I don't know - I used to be a bookseller!
    Love Wodehouse; two of my personal, not widely-known favourites are Barbara Comyns ('Our Spoons Came from Woolworths' amongst her others)and E H Young, a sort of early 20th century Jane Austen.. well, almost.
    Favourite book? No.. there are too many. I'll think on that for a blog post of my own!

  8. Annie, I used to be a librarian, but there are always authors I don't know or haven't tried. I know of, but haven't read, both of the favourite authors you mention and will check the library catalogue when we get back to Wales.

  9. I am obsessed with Henning Mankell's Wallander series and am just coming to the end of his newest one, The Troubled Man -- said to be the last in the series. Over the next couple of weeks I will be ordering up my summer reading and there are a couple of books you've recommended that are on that list.

  10. Thanks for the recommendation, Broad, and glad to be of service in your future reading choices :-) I've heard of the Wallander books, of course, but haven't yet sampled one, but now I'll see what the local library can supply when we get home.


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