Lord John and the Hand of Devils
Three novellas line up in good, better, best order as master storyteller Diana Gabaldon explores the mid-18th century life of Lord John Grey, a character she introduced in her wildly popular Outlander series of novels.
In Lord John and the Hellfire Club, our hero is plunged into a murder mystery and induction into a notorious and sadistic society. This one’s tone owes a tip of the quill to early gothic novels like The Monk, and seems a bit breathless.
Next comes Lord John and the Succubus, set in wartime. Major Grey intercedes in a fight between a soldier and a gypsy that mushrooms into supernatural intrigue as well as a romantic triangle with a princess and her suitor. Lord John’s servant Tom Byrd proves a witty and resourceful companion who helps keep spirits high as his master fights the evidence of the supernatural with his rational training.
Lord John and the Haunted Soldier sees the major at his most vulnerable while recovering from battle wounds. Lord John struggles with his own and his brother’s possible complicity as he explores the cause of exploding cannon gun barrels that have led to deaths of crewmen. Lord John reasons away through self doubts while a sliver of the exploded gun is still inside him and perilously close to his heart. In his heightened and precarious state he confesses his love of the Outlander Scot Jamie Fraser in a letter he promptly commits to the fire, adding poignancy to this final (ahem) outing of an enjoyable collection.
2007 (US). 2008 (UK)