Lord John and the Hand of Devils Book Review
Lord John and the Hand of the Devils comprises three novellas: Lord John and the Hellfire Club, Lord John and the Succubus, and Lord John and the Haunted Soldier. Lord John and the Hand of the Devils is the first book in the John Grey series. They are all written by Diana Gabaldon, who also wrote the Outlander book series.
After finishing Voyager, the third book in the Outlander series, I decided to read this book, beginning the Lord John book series. I'm reading all of Diana's books chronologically, as she has them listed on her website.
Lord John and the Hellfire Club Synopsis
The first short story in Lord John and the Hand of the Devils takes place soon after Ardsmuir Prison closed. Harry Quarry, who also had worked at Ardsmuir prison right before John Grey came to take over as governor of the prison, is also a character in this novella.
Lord John Grey meets Robert Gerald, Quarry's cousin by marriage. Gerald has red hair like Jamie Fraser, and Grey instantly feels attracted to Gerald.
"Yet now and again, Grey felt the brown eyes rest on him, with an expression of speculation that both modesty and caution forbade him to interpret. It was with no sense of surprise, though, that upon departure from the club, he found himself alone in the vestibule with Gerald, Quarry having been detained by an acquaintance met in passing." (p. 26)
Gerald had asked Grey to meet him that evening to discuss with him a dilemma he was facing. Unfortunately, the meeting never happened because someone murdered Gerald later that afternoon. Grey then does investigative work to find out who killed Gerald to avenge him.
Lord John and the Succubus Synopsis
In the second novella in Lord John and the Hand of the Devils, Major John Grey, along with two English regiments, is living in the house of Princess Louisa von Lowenstein. She is a widow.
A soldier informed Grey that one of their soldiers had died, and many people thought he was a victim of a succubus, a female demon. There were many men recently who claimed that a demonic woman victimized them at night. The death of the soldier made everyone more fearful. Some soldiers were afraid to sleep at night because they thought the succubus would visit them.
Later that evening, Princess von Lowenstein's son, Siggy, was frightened by a witch he saw in his room. Grey saw that the shutters in the boy's room were open, and a ladder was leaning against the house. So Grey thought that maybe Siggy did notice a strange person in the room. Furthermore, Siggy's nurse was missing. The suspense is building.
"And further. . .even if the princess had in some way contrived both the rumor of the succubus and the death of Private Koenig - who was the witch in Siggy's room? Had someone truly tried to abduct the child? Private Koenig was already dead; clearly he could have had nothing to do with it? (p. 177)
Almost everyone in the town and the soldiers believed the rumors about the succubus victimizing men in the night. Lord John, though, was skeptical about the stories. First, he had a mystery to figure out who killed the soldier and why. Also, he wanted to find out the purpose of spreading these rumors.
Lord John and the Haunted Soldier Synopsis
Lord John and the Haunted Soldier is the third novella in Lord John and the Hand of the Devils. I thought, since the word 'haunted' is in the title, that it would be about ghosts. However, there were no ghosts in the story besides a few mentions that were not significant to the story. Instead, the story is about a soldier, Philip Lister, that died during a cannon explosion while John Grey was the commander.
Army commissioners had summoned John Grey to an inquisition about the cannon that fired under the direction of his command, which killed Lister the previous month. Many other soldiers were injured, including Grey, in this incident. The colonels questioning him were investigating to see if Grey may have been at fault for the explosion.
Could the explosion have been in any way his fault? He felt a natural resistance to the suggestion, strong as the involuntary jerk of a knee. But he could not dismiss Marchmont's insinuations - or deal with them, if they could not be dismissed - if he was not clear in his own mind about the matter. (p. 256)
The commissioners are trying to find out how Lister died in the explosion and why the cannon went off. John Grey does investigative work independently to determine what happened that day and clear his name.
Another side story is Grey is trying to find out where Lister's wife is and her baby. Lister's father suspects she may be pregnant. So Lister wants Grey to find his son's wife and child, so he can take care of them since his son has died.
My Analysis of Lord John and the Hand of Devils
I did not enjoy these novellas about John Grey very much. First, usually, I'm not too fond of short stories because there is not enough time to get to know the characters, and there is not much depth to the story.
Second, I had the impression that we would learn more about John Grey's life when he was not involved with Jamie and Claire Fraser. Or, we would hear the story from his point of view. Unfortunately, neither of those scenarios happened. Instead, the stories were snippets of a small scene of John Grey's life that did not reveal too much about his character.
Furthermore, short stories usually demonstrate a moral or have some meaning in the story. Unfortunately, I didn't receive any significance from these stories. There wasn't anything to think about afterward or to discover after finishing the story.
I would not recommend this book as part of the Outlander series. I did and was very disappointed. It was hard for me to keep focused while reading the short stories because they were not engaging. Lord John and the Hand of the Devils book does not contribute anything to the Outlander books series. It is not supposed to, but I thought it might give more insight into John Grey's characters. Unfortunately, I don't feel it did.
I'll read Lord John and the Private Matter next. It is the second book in the John Grey series. This next book should be better than these novellas since it is a novel and a little longer, so it should have more character depth. Also, I want to learn more about John Grey.