Making my way through Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has taken me to her Lord John Grey mystery series. Lord John is an important secondary character from the main series, who Gabaldon has developed further in her novellas. Lord John and the Hand of Devils is a collection of three short stories featuring Lord John that can be read alone or in conjunction with the Outlander series. The three stories within this book take place in between the larder Lord John Mysteries and probably should be read with that series in order as events within these short stories are often referred to in the other Lord John books.
The first story in the collection, Lord John and the Hellfire Club, takes place before the events in Lord John and the Private Matter, and we catch Lord John in the midst of a murder that leads him to an underground secret society. Surprised by the reunion with a former lover who is also a member, John sets out to solve the murder and bring the murderer to justice. The second story is Lord John and the Succubus, and takes place after Lord John and the Private Matter and before the second novel, Lord John and the Hand of the Blade. In this second novel, Lord John is fighting in Prussia and investigates murders attributed to a succubus – a woman who sucks the life from a man while he sleeps. This endeavor reunites John with Stephan Von Namtzen, who despite his lingering feelings for James Fraser, John has discovered an attraction. A man of reason, John is desperate to prove the murders have been carried out at the hand of a mortal, and not a supernatural being before another victim is claimed. The third story, Lord John and the Haunted Soldier, takes place between Lord John and the Hand of the Blade and The Scottish Prisoner. In this third story we find John forced to testify about an exploding cannon that nearly claimed his life. When the evidence points to a traitor in His Majesty’s armed forces, John must bring the traitor to justice before his life and reputation go down in flames.
In a synopsis according to Goodreads:
Diana Gabaldon, the New York Times bestselling author of Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade and the wildly popular Outlander novels, delivers three tales of war, intrigue, and espionage that feature one of her most popular characters: Lord John Grey. In the heart of the eighteenth century, here are haunted soldiers . . . lusty princesses . . . ghostly apparitions . . . dark family secrets. And here Lord John will face enemies who come in the guise of friends, memories in the shape of a fiery-haired Scot named James Fraser, and allies who have the power to destroy him with a single blow. . . . Capturing the lonely, tormented, and courageous career of a man who fights for his crown, his honor, and his own secrets, Diana Gabaldon delivers breathtaking human drama. And in tales seething with desire, madness, and political intrigue, Gabaldon once again proves that she can bring history to life in a way few novelists ever have.
While I enjoyed reading all three of these stories, I feel the third one was the best. Diana Gabaldon is a wonderfully descriptive writer, but I feel she has difficulty writing on a shorter scale. Most of these stories start really interesting. They have a great plot, interesting characters, and a great mystery to be solved. The plots move on at a nice pace, but all the stories seem to end a little too abruptly as if Gabaldon realized she was at (or over) her word limit and decided to just tack an end on them. Out of the three, the last story seemed to have a more natural conclusion, and I loved how it connected to the previous novel’s story. As interesting as the first two stories are, they are stand alone stories that just give the reader insight into John’s life during that particular time period, while the last story was a continuation of a larger story and seemed more thought out. Despite my lack of satisfaction with the endings of these short stories, I would still definitely recommend them to anyone who is a Lord John Grey fan.
This is my fifteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge