I really, really like Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John Grey novels, but this collection of shorter stories fell a little bit flat for me. I think what I like most about these books is the character work she does alongside the various mysteries, and there really just wasn’t room for any of that in this short of a format. I think there’s a reason she normally gravitates toward longer books as a writer. (Sidenote: I’m currently reading the second LJG novel and I think it’s hilarious that it’s considered a short book at 494 pages.) Each story is loosely connected by the thread of supposedly supernatural events that motivate their plots (spoiler alert: none of them are actually supernatural).
The first story in the collection is the shortest, and in my opinion, the weakest. “Lord John and the Hellfire Club” takes place before the first Lord John novel. LJG is dragged into the death of a redheaded man that turns out to be connected to a mysterious secret society. It gets pretty gross and I enjoyed Lord John’s wry voice throughout, but it also felt really disjointed, like she was working so hard at keeping it short that she cut pieces out of the story.
“Lord John and the Succubus” is novella length, and follows Lord John in his adventures in Prussia, as he’s seconded to another unit and gets to know the mysterious Colonel Stephon von Namtzen, who may or may not be expressing sexual interest in our Major Grey. Meanwhile, English and Prussian soldiers keep showing up dead, and the rumor is that the local succubus is the perpetrator. LJG of course gets wrapped up in the investigation. His interactions with von Namzten were very fun, but the mystery fell flat for me.
The final novella is original to the collection. “Lord John and the Haunted Soldier” is called to testify at a tribunal investigating the deaths of a several soldiers and the explosion of a cannon during a battle. LJG’s half-brother turns out to be involved, so of course, he is compelled to find out what’s really going on. This was by far my favorite of the collection because it had the most personal stakes for LJG.
I wouldn’t recommend this collection as a starting point for anyone, but if you’re already a fan of the series, definitely check it out.