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This review is from: Lord John and the Hand of Devils (Paperback)
I first read Diana Gabaldon's book 'Cross Stitch (US: Outlander)' some years ago and did not get on with it, in fact, gave up half way through. Then, a few months ago, I came across the short story 'Lord John and the Succubus' in an anthology of fantasy stories and liked it so much that I gave the Outlander series another go and got totally hooked.
Lord John Grey is one of my favourite characters from that series and so I was thrilled to find that DG has written several books with him as the main character. He is a kind of Sherlock Holmes of the eighteenth century, an eccentric English lord that has a knack for solving strange cases of murder, treason and assorted family secrets. He is also a homosexual, which in an age where this can get you hanged, is an added source of dangerous and potentially life threatening situations.
`The Hand of Devils' contains three novellas. In the first one `Lord John and the Hellfire Club', Grey's equilibrium is disturbed by the appearance of a tall redheaded man who is soon at the centre of a murder inquiry. The second novella called `Lord John and the Succubus' sees him posted as a liaison officer to Prussia, having to deal with everything from army affairs to local superstition and another dead body. In the final story, `Lord John and the Haunted soldier', Lord John finds himself facing a military tribunal at Woolwich who are interested in events that happened during his stay in Prussia. Just what do they know? Grey is more than a little uneasy...
There is the odd reference to the Frasers (from Cross Stitch), but you will be disappointed if you are looking for ground breaking new material about them. However, the connection between the two series of books may well deepen. In the latest 'Outlander' book there is a tie-in with some of the material contained in one of the other Lord John stories. Though not vital, having read it does make it easier to understand some of the story lines surrounding Grey in 'An Echo in the Bone'. Whether material from 'Lord John and the Hand of Devils' will eventually surface in 'Outlander or not, it will contribute to giving you a more rounded view of the eighteenth century as a whole and as such is a good addition to the main series.
I am not a great reader of murder mysteries and can't say how this book compares to the likes of Doyle and Christie, but I really enjoyed the read. Having now read both, the Outlander and the Lord John books, I am really hoping that Lord John will have more than a walk-on part in the next Fraser instalments.