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by M. J. Trow
Allison and Busby, March 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0749083662

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Peter 'Mad Max' Maxwell is still teaching teenagers. In fact, he is now the Head of Sixth Form at Leighford High School. This is not a position he has aspired to, merely one that was thrust upon him. While he does not enjoy teenagers' problems and their pettiness, he does enjoy finding the occasional student with some intellectual ability.

Maxwell's position also means that he sometimes needs to straighten out a student's private life. The school nurse is worried about Annette Chocker. Annette has a love letter in her possession from another teacher at the school. This is against school district policy but it is also against the law, as Annette is a minor. Maxwell agrees to try to straighten out the situation by speaking with the teacher in question. Unfortunately, before he has the chance to put a stop to the situation, Annette and the teacher disappear.

Maxwell is also distracted, from Annette's problem, by the appearance of a dead body. He is invited by Dr David Radley to bring his students to a local archeological dig. Radley is in charge of the dig site and believes the students would be interested in the Saxon skeleton discovered.

When they arrive, Radley is not at the dig; however, they are expected and are given a tour. One of the students is not interested in the skeleton or dig site and sneaks off to find better entertainment. What he finds is the murdered body of Radley.

As Maxwell's significant other, DC Jacquie Carpenter, is involved in the investigation, he has an inside connection to the case and vital clues. Something about this murder is unusual and those who begin to put the pieces together disappear. This sparks both Maxwell and the police in to action. They must find the killer before he strikes again.

MAXWELL'S GRAVE shows marked improvement from the earlier books in the series. The relationships between the characters are better developed and explained. Maxwell is the main character, so the relationships explored tend to be his. This book provides more detail about his relationship with Jacquie Carpenter, with his own co-workers, with Jacquie's co-workers and with his students. For the most part, he is well liked; however, he can be hard to take. When one's students think you are strange and off-kilter, there is a good chance everyone else in your life views you the same.

'Mad Max' Maxwell is an intrepid investigator, who frequently finds himself injured in the pursuit of truth. He is something of a cross between the cozy friendly detective and the more intellectual aloof detective. Within the text, he refers to himself as both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. It can only be imaged what other personality quirks lurk under the surface if he identifies with both of these fictional detectives.

MAXWELL'S GRAVE is the tenth book in the Maxwell series. M J Trow is also the author of the Sholto Lestrade series and several non-fiction works.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, April 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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