This book is pretty much a crossover between the Lord John Grey books and the main Outlander novels. You can read it on its own, or as part of the LJG series without reading the Outlander novels, but it works best as a companion to that series.
I knew going in that Jamie Fraser was going to be a big presence and that the story in it would fill in the missing pieces of how LJG and Jamie went from loathing each other to becoming friends, but I didn’t realize that Jamie would be an actual POV character, and that he would be just as much, if not more, of a protagonist than LJG himself, and it’s his series! (In retrospect, I suppose it should have been a clue the book’s not called “Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner”, just The Scottish Prisoner.)
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Jamie is a great character, and the two previous Lord John books (as well as the short stories and novellas) have all made his character a large part of Lord John’s interior landscape, both as a lost friend, and an unrequited love. It feels right that the last book in the series (so far) would feature the mending of their relationship.
Jamie is the titular prisoner, a former Scottish laird and Jacobite “traitor” infamous during the Rising, currently doing his time as a groom on a country estate. Lord John and he met when Jamie was in Ardsmuir prison, and LJG was the warden. The two men became friends but had a falling out when LJG declared his feelings for Jamie, who is still devoted to his dead wife*, Claire.
*Not dead. Just time-traveled into the future. Don’t worry about it.
The two are forced together years later when the death of an English soldier in Canada exposes a traitor and a possible conspiracy. The key to the conspiracy seems to lie in a poem written in Gaelic, so LJG’s brother Hal, against LJG’s wishes, sends for Jamie to aid their investigation, and eventually provide the muscle for bringing the traitors to justice. They get caught up in intrigues of political conspiracy, murder, espionage and theft, but the real focus is on the two men. The plot here is almost secondary. The mystery is settled by 85% of the way into the book. In fact, more than any book in the Lord John series, this book is more about the character arcs of its POVs than it is about the mystery and goings on. Both men have to come to terms with some things together and apart, and the book can’t end until both of them have resolution, not just who murdered who and why.
I liked this book quite a lot, but I do wish there had been a bit more genuine emotional interactions between the two leads. The really important stuff Gabaldon seems to let go unsaid. I suppose that’s how these two men would really go about it if they were real, but as a reader, I wanted less ambiguous resolution. (Specifically, I wanted to see how Jamie was able to get over his homophobia and how his animosity towards John was able to lessen. We never get to seethe specific moment or trigger for why or how that happens so they can be friends again, especially after their horrific confrontation in the last book.)
I’m not sure if DG has any plans to write any more Lord John books, or if she even can. There is a limited window of time she can set them in, both characters having moved on to much different settings the next time we see them in Voyager. But if she did manage to write one, I would definitely read it.