Three and a half stars (of five)
Gabaldon reacquaints readers with Lord John Grey. In Grey’s first full-length novel set in 18th century London, nobility and the rabble cross paths, while whores and dukes solicit one another. Grey is an active soldier, living the good life, as Great Britain fends off France on three continents. Emerging from his club one June morning in 1757, Grey possesses a secret that may permanently damage his family, should the wrong person learn of its nature. As this plagues him, the Crown sends him to investigate the murder of a fellow soldier, who may have had treasonous intentions, opening up the suspect pool exponentially. Working on two investigations simultaneously, Grey and his newly hired valet, Tom Byrd, seek to bring matters to a head without alerting too many individuals. The more they investigate, on both counts, the more sordid things become. Grey must follow a poxed person’s proclivities (try saying that five times!) in order to help his own family, but ends up solving both cases utilising his sharp logic while traversing the seas in search of a woman in green velvet, who may hold the key to everything, or prove yet another wasted journey away from Mother England. This novel set in the early days of the Seven Years War and post-Jamie Fraser first encounters offers the reader much historical insight while also setting the scene to further the story told briefly in Gabaldon’s VOYAGER.
In his role as military Sherlock Holmes, Grey seeks to close all doors and solve the cases put before him without rocking the proverbial boat. This can prove highly difficult, when 18th century London is the setting, as anything goes and usually ends up happening. Grey uses his sleuthing abilities to show his multi-dimensional character seen already in VOYAGER and a novella, which is likely expanded in the rest of the LJG collection. Gabaldon has such a firm handle on all her characters that the attentive reader may look for more crossovers or crumbs mentioned in one series and resolved in the other. Just when I wanted to listen and enjoy, I have to be on my toes!
Kudos, Madam Gabaldon for this wonderful tale, full of intrigue and sleuthing. I look forward to learning more and seeing how one Jamie Fraser plays a keener role in the larger story.