Thursday, December 22, 2011
London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of-war in the remote Lake District, life could be worse: He’s not cutting sugar cane in the West Indies, and he’s close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own. But Jamie Fraser’s quiet existence is coming apart at the seams, interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of Tobias Quinn, an erstwhile comrade from the Rising.
Like many of the Jacobites who aren’t dead or in prison, Quinn still lives and breathes for the Cause. His latest plan involves an ancient relic that will rally the Irish. Jamie is having none of it—he’s sworn off politics, fighting, and war. Until Lord John Grey shows up with a summons that will take him away from everything he loves—again.
Lord John Grey—aristocrat, soldier, and occasional spy—finds himself in possession of a packet of explosive documents that exposes a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. Time is of the essence as the investigation leads to Ireland, with a baffling message left in “Erse,” the tongue favored by Scottish Highlanders. Lord John, who oversaw Jacobite prisoners when he was governor of Ardsmiur prison, thinks Jamie may be able to translate—but will he agree to do it?
Soon Lord John and Jamie are unwilling companions on the road to Ireland, a country whose dark castles hold dreadful secrets, and whose bogs hide the bones of the dead. A captivating return to the world Diana Gabaldon created in her Outlander and Lord John series, The Scottish Prisoner is another masterpiece of epic history, wicked deceit, and scores that can only be settled in blood.
This is the best of the Lord John books, no doubt about it. Why? Because of Jamie Fraser. *sigh*
I've enjoyed the previous Lord John books but because this one is such a direct tie in to Gabaldon's Outlander series I found it the most compelling and entertaining to read. As I've found in the previous Lord John mystery books, the actual mysteries aren't that great or complex. It's Lord John himself, his character and those that surround him that make the story. The mysteries don't hold me or make me wonder nor are they real whodunits. It's more like what kind of a mess has Lord John stumbled upon and how is he going to get out of it? I found the same to be here. The actual mystery in the The Scottish Prisoner - the Wild Hunt Jacobite plot line which takes Lord John to Ireland was so-so. I knew all along who did what, it was no surprise to find I was right. What was great was that Jamie Fraser was with him! Together, Jamie, Lord John and Tom, his valet, made a great trio! I wouldn't call this a mystery, it's more like the adventures of Jamie Fraser and Lord John Grey in Ireland and how Jamie rescues Lord John from a big mess and they're able to forgive and forget that unfortunate matter that happened in the stables at Helwater.
Gabaldon gives us plenty of more reasons to love Jamie Fraser in this book. I loved the back story on him and our insight to his life at Helwater with Willie, his young son whom he cannot acknowledge as his own. But what's really insightful is the fact that he even leaves Helwater for a while to go to Ireland and London! This is all new and wonderful! Jamie is in fine form here - vintage Jamie. His interaction with John's family is fascinating in London - this is a whole new world and side to Jamie we haven't seen before. He is an older Jamie than we know and love from Dragonfly in Amber and glimpsed in the early chapters of Voyager. Jamie is brought to London to help with a poem that he may be able to translate. Lord John's brother has summoned him to his townhouse in London. While there, after an initial unpleasantness, Jamie is able to be "himself" again - a laird, a gentleman, as he was before Culloden. Jamie is once again recognized and referred to as Lord Broch Tuarach, instead of as a convicted traitor and prisoner. It's great to see him this way! He's larger than life, I fell in love with him all over again. *sigh* He can hold his own against anyone he comes up against, including Lord John's brother Hal, the Duke of Pardloe, and the Duke's enemies. A favorite scene of mine takes place in the Duke's library, as Lord John and an enemy battle it out, Jamie blithely watches them make fools of themselves before breaking it up. He's just so damn cool! But despite the fact Jamie is in fine form here, his yearning for Claire was heartrending, his dreams and nightmares - and the constant prayer, that she might be safe. She and the child. This is always hanging over Jamie's head, plus he can't completely accustom himself to the idea of being "free" while away from Helwater. In his heart he is tied to Helwater - because of Willie. He's not completely whole, he's a changed Jamie due to his lost life and...Claire
Basically, Jamie makes this book, but all the characterizations are vibrant and colorful - even Lord John's valet Tom is great! Interesting enough, there is a very surprising story regarding the Duke of Pardloe's wife, Minnie. Hal's duchess and her background as a spy, whom Jamie knew in Paris before the Rising, raised an eyebrow. The glimpses we get of her relationship with Hal and their astonishing courtship would make a great book in of itself! I wonder if Diana will ever write it, including that hearth rug scene! ;)
Overall, The Scottish Prisoner is a worthwhile, excellent addition to Gabaldon's Outlander and Lord John series. Do you need to read the earlier books in the Lord John series to get into it? No, but it helps. Do you need to read the Outlander books to like this? No, but if you're an Outlander fan, you'll simply love it, otherwise it will be an above average book if you're unfamiliar with Jamie Fraser's character. As much as the mystery itself wasn't all that scintillating, the relationship building and characterizations were top rate. They make the book, as well as filling in some of the lost years for Jamie while at Helwater and the bittersweet relationship with his son. One of my favorite picks of the year for 2011 and a nice holdover until book eight, Written in My Own Heart's Blood is published. A keeper for any Outlander and Lord John fan.