Lord John and the Private Matter Book Review

book review historical fiction
Lord John and the Private Matter Book Review

Lord John and the Private Matter is the second book in the Lord John series by Diana Gabaldon. I read the first book in the series, Lord John and the Hand of Devils, which I did not enjoy very much because it consisted of three novellas that did not have much character development since the stories were so short.  Lord John and the Private Matter is the first novel in the series. I'm hoping that it will be more enjoyable. 

Before I started the book, I looked in the back to see if there was any commentary to read first.  I read the Author's Notes and References where I found the subject of this book is transvestites.  After learning this information, I looked at the book's title again and realized why it was called "private matter." The story is indeed about transvestites; however, that is not the main focus.  It's just part of the investigation. 

Lord John and the Private Matter Synopsis

Lord John and the Private Matter comprises two storylines that intersect. The first storyline is about Joseph Trevelyan. He is a soldier engaged to John's cousin, Olivia Pearsall. John suspects that Trevelyan has pox, which is syphilis. Therefore, he can't let his cousin marry someone already having an affair. In the second storyline, Lord John is investigating a murder. It seemed like a simple case to solve until more people got murdered. 

Trevelyan's Marriage to Olivia

Lord John and the Private Matter starts out with Trevelyan possibly having syphilis.  John thought he had seen scabs on Trevelyan's private parts, indicating that he may have the pox.  Trevelyan is going to marry John Grey's cousin in six weeks.  If he does have syphilis, which means he is having relations with someone else, John cannot allow him to marry Olivia.  Unfortunately, John doesn't have much time to confirm his suspicions and end the engagement.

John and Quarry had thought up a scheme to confirm that Trevelyan indeed had the pox. But, first, they would take Trevelyan to a brothel, thinking that is how Trevelyan got the pox. 

"Then, if you've caught him with his breeches down, so to speak, and the situation revealed beyond doubt, I shouldn't think he'd have much choice save to find grounds for breaking the engagement himself.  What d'ye say to that?"  (p. 30)

While going through with this plan, John discovered other sinuous situations. A prostitute had confided in John that a man left the brothel routinely in the evening dressed in women's clothes. John thinks it may be Trevelyan. Throughout the story, John tries to identify this person. 

Murder of a Sergeant

Sergeant Tim O'Connell was murdered in a tavern and moved off the premises near some water.  The victim also had a heelprint on his forehead, which seemed odd. The more John looks into this mystery, the more complicated it becomes.

John and another soldier, Stubbs, were visiting the widow to give their condolences and found that she was pregnant and beaten up.  She said that her husband beat her up and the baby she is carrying could not be his because he had been away for a year.  It seemed apparent that the baby belonged to Scanlon. 

"Adultery, is it?  Well, and if it is, I'm not the first to be after doing it.  Tim O'Connell left me last year in the spring; took up with a doxy from the stews, he did, and took what money we had to buy her gauds.  When he came here two days ago, 'twas the first time I'd seen him in near on a year.  If it were not for Mr. Scanlon offerin' me shelter and work, I should no doubt have become the whore ye think me."  (p. 47)

At first, it seemed that his wife cheated on her husband and then had him killed.  It should be an easy case to solve.  After that, however, the story takes on new turns and becomes more complicated. 


My Analysis of Lord John and the Private Matter

 Lord John and the Private Matter is another investigative story. All of the Lord John Grey stories I have read so far in Lord John and the Hand of the Devils are all mysteries that Grey needs to figure out. In contrast, the books in the Outlander series describe Jamie and Claire's adventures, which I think is much more exciting. The Lord John books seem dull in comparison.  

This story keeps you wondering who murdered the sergeant and who is the transvestite.  There were many places in the book where I thought I knew the answers, but then it became apparent that my assumption was incorrect.  The author keeps you wondering until the end.  Everything happens in the six weeks leading up to the marriage of Trevelyan and Olivia.

The Lord John novels are getting better. The next book in the series I will be reading is Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade. The book is thicker than Lord John and the Private Matter. Each next novel is getting longer.  I have two more books to read in the series.