Maxwell’s Match – M.J.Trow (2002)

Peter ‘Mad Max’ Maxwell is a history teacher at a comprehensive school
(Leighford High). He is chosen to be part of an ‘exchange scheme’ with a
local private school, Grimonds, which has all the trappings usually
associated with such establishments and is light-years away from the chaos
of Leighford High. However within a day of his arrival the Housemaster of
the House in which Maxwell is staying has fallen to his death off the roof –
did he jump or was he pushed? When another teacher is found floating in the
pond a couple of days later it is definitely murder. Maxwell is plunged into
the investigation as is his girl-friend DS Jacquie Carpenter.

M.J. Trow is one of those Britmyst writers with a substantial back catalogue
who must sell pretty well as the series keep running, but who flies
virtually undetected by the critical radar (see also J.M. Gregson with whom
Trow has a few similarities). Trow started out with the Lestrade series
featuring the detective of that name from Sherlock Holmes but moved from
historical to current day mysteries with Maxwell in 1994. There have been 14
Maxwell’s since then with Maxwell’s Revenge

(2009) being the latest. Maxwell’s Match is the 8th in the series.

The book is of the solid and traditional kind. Maxwell is something of an
odd-ball with his passion for history, his store of recondite knowledge, his
general (though largely comic) opposition to the modern world and all its
various manifestations. The narrative is a straight-forward one; a crime is
committed, then another; Maxwell pursues his investigations in a somewhat
leisurely manner while the police pursue theirs at greatest pace but to
rather less effect. The solution is hardly any great surprise.

The sociological observation remains at a pretty basic level. As a whole it
is hard to find that much to say. There are much better mysteries treating
similar subjects (Elizabeth George’s Well Schooled in Murder – when she was
a real force to be reckoned with – is one that always comes to my mind; an
emotional tour de force).

This is not a bad book; indeed it makes for an enjoyable and relaxing read
for a few hours. But it is certainly nothing special on any level whether of
narrative, plot, social observation or humour (it is mildly humorous at
times but never at a guffaw level). Beta-minus (at best) as Maxwell himself
might say.

(March 2009)