Book Title: MAXWELL'S CHAIN
Author: M.J. Trow
Publisher: Allison and Busby
No of Pages: 367
Peter 'Mad Max' Maxwell is a very busy man; as Head of Sixth Form at Leighford High he does his best to resist Ofsted imperatives and mark GCSE coursework, whilst trying to cram as much History as possible into the reluctant heads of Nine Eff Gee and their like.
Despite this, Max still finds time for some amateur sleuthing, even though his policewoman 'Significant Other', DS Jacquie Carpenter, has decided that this time he's leaving any murder investigations to her. But how can he refuse when the terminally nervous school photographer asks for his help after accidentally photographing a murder on the beach?
Their discovery of a body buried in the sand dunes sets in motion a chain of events that only the redoubtable Mad Max can break, but one thing is certain; life in Leighford will never be the same again.
Australian readers could probably be forgiven for slightly different expectations when sitting down to read a book labelled "The New Peter 'Mad Max' Maxwell mystery". This isn't our Mad Max - this is a particularly English style of Mad Max more than a hemisphere away from our own version.
Peter Maxwell is a History teacher, head of sixth form, and a slightly older man with a considerably younger partner, DS Jacquie Carpenter. And a baby son Nolan, a love of bicycles, a decidedly cavalier attitude to keeping ones nose out of matters that don't concern you, and an almost stubborn inability to leave well enough alone.
Whilst this book isn't exactly a fit for the small English village style mystery, there's definitely a hefty dose of the English eccentric about Mad Max. And there is a lot of humour in these books - and there is absolutely nothing subtle about most of that. To the point where it does get a tad annoying, as there's something very predictable about Max's behaviour; Jacquie's reactions; Jacquie's bosses exasperation; everyone's relationship with young Nolan; the kids from school that Max runs into; Max's colleagues at school; Jacquie and Max's "unmarried state" and all those other little elements the reader is constantly beaten over the head with.
Now I will admit there were times reading this book that I could have lived with a whole lot less of the forced eccentricity of Mad Max, but it's not like the author makes any apology for that aspect of the books (I've read others before this one), and somehow, despite a niggling sense of irritation, Max is sort of endearing, and the quality of the plots, which aren't necessarily flat or single-threaded make these books very readable.
Undoubtedly another candidate for readers who are looking for something on the lighter side, the humour will appeal to many many readers, as will Max's relationships with his students and his young son. If you've not read any of this 'Mad Max' series and you like this very English style of book - then I can recommend them. As with most of these relationship based series, it wouldn't hurt to try to read the books in order, but it's also not going to matter that much if you dip in wherever you can get your hands on a copy.