A secondary character from Gabaldon’s Outlander series steps out in three supernatural yarns.
Conflicted raconteur Lord John Grey, last seen in Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (2007), is back. This triptych includes two stories culled from historical anthologies and one original tale published here for the first time. Gabaldon’s strengths are on full display. The short form forces her to curtail the sprawl evident in the recent Outlander novels, while the historical backdrop serves to showcase her exhaustive research. With his unrequited passion for the Scottish rebel Jamie Fraser still fresh in his mind, Grey stumbles into a secret society hidden in London in “Lord John and the Hellfire Club.” Temptation, blackmail and murder ensue as Grey negotiates the minefields of the British class system. An old-fashioned ghost story lies at the heart of “Lord John and the Succubus,” a companion story to the Prussia-set Brotherhood of the Blade. In the midst of the Seven Years’ War, Grey must establish the connection between a murdered soldier and a towering gypsy temptress with a secret worth keeping. The last story, “Lord John and the Haunted Soldier,” cagily incorporates a thrilling bit of detective work as the noble major ferrets out a traitorous cannoneer among a Royal Artillery Regiment. This last story is the freshest and most thorough portrait of Gabaldon’s multifaceted leading man, so troubled by the events that overtake him. “God knows I am neither ignorant nor innocent of the ways of the world. And yet I feel so unclean, so much evil I have met tonight,” he writes.
Deftly written, pleasantly concise stories about the ghosts of desire, each with its own discrete merits.