* Prices may differ from that shown
Maxwell's Island is a murder mystery written by MJ Trow and features the crime solving teacher Peter 'Mad Max' Maxwell, in this novel Maxwell is taking his first years on a week's trip to Jersey. Along with his wife, son and the other teachers he has to contend with errant children, bad food, farting and alcoholic teachers.
The Maxwell series of novels are set in the plumy tones of West Sussex with a large multifaceted comprehensive school; MJ Trow takes us through the usual parade of diffident students, bored teachers and strange school caretakers. This book takes the central characters away from Sussex and into a new and exciting setting, including Peter's wife, the oft mentioned Policewoman Jackie who is asked to look into the strange disappearance of the head of Art's wife before the dramatic finding of the teacher dead at the bottom of the stairs back at home.
This book was the first of the Mad max series and was a joy to read from the first page to the last, Maxwell is a classic awkward English gent placed in the hurly burly setting of a large school. Rather than be intimidated, he of course is the centre of the school and the pupils all clearly love him. His battles with the school's finance department, departmental heads and the actions of the coach's driver all add to the comic effect. The use of deadpan humour, the chance to observe the angst of young life and the differences between the kids and their parents was a pleasure to read and was on one occasion laugh out loud funny. The murder mystery was well constructed and plotted but the ending was a bit bizarre and a little unlikely, however, that barely detracts from the pleasure of reading the book.
Books based on characters with a normal job who keeps running into murder mysteries can over time become ridiculous in their plot lines to keep the credibility possible, however, the humour and witticisms sprinkled through the book actually make the story of Mad max the core of the novel rather than the murder mystery. I enjoyed the novel enormously, yes it's silly, preposterous and well if you analysed it then you could holes in the plot larger than the one which sank the titanic but does every book you read need to be so well defined that the outcome was obvious from page 1? Mad max is a classic character and I'm surprised Jim Broadbent hasn't played him in a TV series as long as David Jason doesn't get anywhere near after his think as a royal bodyguard (so bad).
I'm going to find the other Maxwell novels and enjoy his character assassinations, observations about parents and the other teachers. Who would ever believe teachers could think in the way Maxwell does but I suspect there's a lot of truth in the character.