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Lord John and the Hand of Devils Hardcover – November 27, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
The indefatigable Gabaldon, who has made the British 18th century her own, offers a trio of novellas about Lord John Grey, whose minor role in the Outlander novels (concerning Jacobite Jamie Fraser and including A Breath of Snow and Ashes) has become a major fictional spinoff (Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, etc.). The three mystery-adventure novellas of this volume span 1756 to 1758, in settings packed with dark secrets—and therefore dangers—for the soldier-hero with secrets of his own. The first novella finds Lord John swearing vengeance in London for a murdered government official, leading him to a deconsecrated abbey where members of the political elite indulge their basest desires. The second pits Lord John against a succubus that plagues his Prussian encampment, and combines humor with military strategy and supernatural myth. The third, most complex narrative finds Lord John investigating the cause of a cannon explosion in the English countryside that results in a fellow officer's death. Gabaldon brings an effusive joy to her fiction that proves infectious even for readers unfamiliar with her work or the period. A foreword and introductory notes add background on the book's evolution. (Nov.)
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“Gabaldon’s strengths are on full display.... Deftly written, pleasantly concise stories about the ghosts of desire, each with its own discrete merits.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A captivating collection.... featuring richly detailed historical settings, splendidly nuanced characters, and expertly crafted plots.”—Booklist
“[Lord John displays] characteristic elan, intelligence, and fortitude…. You may find yourself relishing the dishes of gooseberry trifle, the cozy afternoons at the Beefsteak Appreciation Society, and the companionship of this urbane 18th century blade.”–Entertainment Weekly
Top customer reviews
Of the three I liked the third one, Lord John and the Haunted Soldier, the best because it touches briefly and indirectly on the deeply poignant feelings that Lord John has for Jamie Fraser. It also highlights several admirable aspects of LJ's character in a story that is a very good and entertaining read. For me, Lord John is the absolute best of the Outlander secondary characters and I will read any story involving him. He absolutely touches my heart.
"Hellfire" takes place in 1756, shortly after Lord John's return from Ardsmuir (the prison that held Jamie Fraser in "Voyager"). It deals with the murder of a young man invited to meet with the secretive Hellfire Club. No one knows much about it. But John receives a sobbering induction, is framed for murder, and saved by Harry Quarry (his predecessor at Ardsmuir) all in the space of about 8 pages - a major feat for Gabaldon.
The second story, "Lord John and the Succubus," is clever. It previously appeared under the same title in the anthology, "Legends II: New Short Novels by the Modern Masters of Fantasy." In the chronology of Lord John titles, it falls between "Private Matter" and "Brotherhood of the Blade."
The story takes place during 1756 and 1757, when England was at war against France and Austria. While serving as a major in the English army, Lord John investigates rumors and deaths attributed to succubi.
I can't speak to the story's cleverness without giving it away, but suffice it to say that the "devils" in this story are quite human and the hand controlling them quite present today and since the beginning of time.
The third, "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier," is an original publication. In the chronology, it comes after "Brotherhood of the Blade." It takes place in 1758.
Lord John has recently returned from the battlefield to respond to an inquest about a cannon that blew up under his command, killing several soldiers. The intrigue involves investigating the cause of the explosion. Lord John struggles with feelings of guilt and memory lapses (In the midst of a crisis, who can say what really happened?).
Consequently, a request that he investigate the disappearance of a local young woman comes as a welcome distraction. Little does he know how the two - the disappearance and the explosion - relate.
Of the 3 stories, I enjoyed Succubus the most. I like Gabaldon's writing style and her imagination, so I'll read anything she writes. But Succubus is a cut above the other 2 stories. If you haven't read it, it alone is worth the price of the book.
For Jamie Fraser fans, you'll find references to him in all the stories. But he is most apparent in the "Haunted Soldier."
For others, you might find this collection easier to follow, if you read the other 2 Lord John novels as well as the first 3 Outlander books. Gabaldon is truly a gifted storyteller in that she can retell episodes from earlier works from the viewpoint of another character. It's quite well done and I'm amazed that she does this without planning for it.
To top it all off, John is lonely! He struggles with his sexuality. Underground sex clubs, a lingering look, a spark in a quick glimpse...what is a man to do? I feel that John wants to just find the sole mate who understands and loves him for who he is. That person just so happens to be Jamie Fraser.
This is a good collection of short stories. A must for anyone that adores the Outlander series.