Review of the Ordeal of the Haunted Room

The Ordeal of the Haunted Room by Jodi Taylor

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I fear that this latest novella in the Chronicles of St Mary’s is better received in retrospection – that is at the time I struggled with it. I had pre-ordered and it showed up on KIndle as if my magic ;-) I keep telling myself – that at this stage in this series, the author is really verging on diminishing returns – if not already past that stage – when inventing new adventures. Nevertheless off I go still purchase that latest installment.

I think I started with volume 6 (no, on checking it was #7 – Lies, Damned Lies and History – the title was what caught me) and subsequently consumed the previous ones in the series and caught back up with her progress. The concept of technologists and historians setting out to investigate historical events in contemporary time (this from memory – didn’t go back to see how she phrases that) is simply amusing and resonated with me. Max and the gang at St Mary’s Institute have entertained and Taylor has added some intriguing tangential tales – the Time Police and the events surrounding the Barricades.

As said, this tale is memorable enough for me to recall a variety of the happenings and the outcome after 50 subsequent reads so there is something to it. But…in totality, this series has become far too formulaic. It’s always going to be a challenge for an author to create fresh installments rather than carrying through a larger pre-conceived narrative arc. However, at this point in this series, the adventures seem to be becoming increasingly trite. I have the sense that Taylor has set out the parameters of the technology and process (the larger conception of the how and all the cool toys) and has moved to the mere discussion of the unique (if not very odd) characters who have morphed into caricatures and lost the engagement of the reader. That is at least how it feels to me. I miss the deeper discussion of the data stacks that collect all the parameters and logistics around the journey to another spot in time or discussion of the attributes of the vehicles themselves – let alone the ‘real’ characters that the crew encounter on their missions.
Maybe next time …

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