Hard Time, a novel by Jodi Taylor
Book details Books in the series

The timeline is fragile. Stand on a butterfly in the Jurassic Era and you may end up returning to a world in which we all have seven arms – useful for multi-tasking. If time travel were available not everybody would respect the past and therefore, it needs to be policed. A subtle and intelligent team of professionals would be able to intercept illegal time travellers before they cause any harm. Or you could just send in a crew of fighters in jack boots and kill every person that tries to go back in time. 

Jane, Luke and Matthew are all Trainee Time Police and they make up what has become known as Team Weird. This is not an affectionate term. The other officers just think they are odd. Team Weird are willing to mix it up with the best of them but are prone to thinking up plans ad hoc, rather than just blasting all they see. This out of the box thinking may be just what is required when undercover officers are required. The first two have been found dead as they were too obvious. There is nothing that screams professionalism or police about these three. 

Hard Time by Jodi Taylor sits within a rich series of books that not only incorporates the Time Police but the eclectic mix of characters that is The Chronicles of Saint Mary’s. I am new to the world and it did feel a little that I was caught catching up with proceedings. The two institutions have opposing views on how time travel should be handled and Team Weird sit somewhere between the two. Those versed in the IP’s politics will take all this as granted but new readers are best served starting with at least book one of the Time Police series. 

I am unsure if the books are an ensemble and cover different characters each time as there is a lot of noise in places. Characters who seemingly have little impact on proceedings within Hard Time are given more time and space to develop than support the story. I can only assume that this is fan service and that these characters feature more prominently elsewhere.  

Through the noise, the book shines when it concentrates on the main three members of Team Weird. It is especially good when the book just boils down to Jane and Luke as they go undercover. There are several chapters that allow the characters to interact and it keeps things simple. A clear understanding of the book is developed. Only for several St Mary characters to have a cameo and for thing to get overly busy once more. 

Hard Time is comedic in nature and takes a sideways look at bureaucracy and relationships. Even the most serious characters are sent up. Therefore, the violence in the book feels jarring. The Time Police themselves are psychopathic, but it is the pure evil at the centre of the book that sits uneasy within a comedic book. If you stop to think what the bad guys are up to you will be appalled, it is incredibly dark. It would work well in a serious science fiction thriller. Within these pages you can’t help thinking that abuse sitting next to a pithy remark about a character’s appearance feels off. 

The book gains and loses focus throughout. When it picks up the relationships and story of Team Weird it is a fun and interesting book. The investigation that dominated the central act is pure, both entertaining and exciting. The elements that book end this have a few too any ephemeral elements. Hard Time is still an enjoyable read, it just in places the noise makes it a harder time to read than necessary. 

Written on 21st October 2020 by .

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