Doing Time by Jodi Taylor
Headline, hb, £18.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
The Time Police needs intelligent and bold recruits for its future developments. Instead, it has Jane, Luke, and Matthew; a woman frightened of her own shadow, a rich, shallow playboy, and the only child to be born at St Mary’s, or as they’re known by their colleagues, Team Weird. No one expects much from Team Weird. Once they’ve finished their probation, they’ll be reassigned where they can’t cause any damage. If they can make it that long. But someone has taken offence to Team Weird and is framing them for crimes they didn’t commit. It’s up to them to pool together their unique skill set to discover who’s against them and save their own lives.
Doing Time is a spin-off from the popular St Mary’s Chronicles, set in a period where time travel is possible and readily abused by people who don’t quite understand the consequences of their actions. The Time Police was created to nullify such situations with extreme and deadly force. Their reputation is not one of questioning first. But that was a long time ago, and now the Time Police have to adapt to a gentler approach.
The theme of company redirection and recruitment run throughout Doing Time. The Time Police cannot carry on as blood-thirsty bullies who kill people based on their proximity to an illegal time machine regardless of whether they knew about it or not. Commander Hays, a female in charge of a lot of old schoolboys, wants a new, softer approach which requires a new look despite the unpopularity of her ideas. This aspect struck a chord with me. With a greater focus in our media on equality of men and women in all levels of business as well as diversity, Taylor’s satirical handling of this in Doing Time highlights all the pitfalls of recruiting based on a diversity wishlist, but also the benefits of looking beyond the familiar for reinvigoration and the resistance businesses can facing in aiming for equality.
The main characters are recognisable, we can see how the characters are going to develop when we meet them. Don’t let that put you off, this is a clever character-driven driven story about adaptation and growth. Jane, Luke and Matt are likeable, I was rooting for them, so watching them run from blunder to blunder learning about themselves and one another is a lot of fun.
And that’s the best way to describe this book; lots of fun. From the start, Team Weird’s missions are unusual, even for the Time Police, and their approaches are unorthodox, chaotic, and effective. Their banter develops from snide remarks to affectionate insults as they grow in understanding of one another.
The characters also remain true to themselves no matter how much the develop. Jane’s character arc is the most interesting of all of them. She might start as a downtrodden young woman, and she is out of her depth in the Time Police but as the only woman to apply they couldn’t turn her away. However, throughout the course of the book she meets other strong women who give her advice that help her grow and adapt, but never beyond the realms of her personality. She never swears but she develops the strength to stand up for herself which is the most liberating thing that could happen to her.
Although this is a spin-off series, St Mary’s plays more than a supporting role, so anyone familiar with the chronicles will not be disappointed, and if you haven’t read them, then Doing Time is a great place to start. On a personal level, I had so much fun reading it, sometimes laughing out loud, I didn’t want to finish it and I cannot wait for the next one to come out.