Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon ****

This is a set of 3 novellas, unrelated, that feature Lord John Gray. Lord John was a minor character in the Outlander series - first, at age 16, he tries to kill Jamie in a minor skirmish several months before Culloden, but is released. Later, he's the head of the prison Jamie spends several years in after turning himself in 7 years after Culloden.

All three are murder mysteries, set in the 1750s, during some war or another (sorry, my European history isn't that well developed) - Lord John is a major, serving in Prussia, France and England during the period the stories take place. He plays detective to the crimes - sort of NCIS-ish, I guess, since he's not actually the police, military or otherwise.

The first story is Lord John and the Hellfire Club - he pursues the murderer of a young British army officer, and is taken into the Hellfire Club where the murderer is revealed - and killed by his fellow officer, the same fellow who was the head of the Scottish prison before he arrived whose name now escapes me. Since it's an audio book, I can't go back and look it up - but this fellow appears in all 3.

The second is Lord John and the Succubus - another murder mystery, but this time the rumor is a succubus is involved. There's lots of quasi-paranormal activity that seems to give credence to the rumor.

The 3rd story is Lord John and the Haunted Soldier - Lord John and several others are wounded, and some killed, by exploding cannons, and it's no accident, as Lord John sets out to prove.

It's no secret that Lord John is gay - that is, to the reader it's no secret. However, it was a fairly major crime to be a sodomite in the army, so John and his fellow sodomites have to keep their activities and proclivities very hush-hush. It's not really germane to the stories except to explain some of the goings on. John himself is not particularly sexually active, especially in these novellas - and it's also made clear that he's still in love with Jamie, even though he rarely sees him during this time period (and of course Jamie has threatened to kill him if he even touches him, so his feelings are in no way returned). There are some recurring characters in the stories from the other Lord John books as well that you won't recognize unless you've read them all.

The narrator is good - the stories are entertaining and each mystery remains so for quite a while - Gabaldon is clever about that sort of thing. 4 stars.

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