No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, July 05, 2018

2018/35: Lord John and the Private Matter -- Diana Gabaldon

In defense of King, country, and family, he would unhesitatingly have sacrificed his virtue to Nessie, had that been required. If it was a question of Olivia marrying a man with syphilis and half the British army being exterminated in battle, versus himself experiencing a ‘personal interview’ with Richard Caswell, though, he rather thought Olivia and the King had best look to their own devices. [loc. 2036]
I have a vague notion that I've read this before, in the pre-blogging days. Nothing seemed familiar, though ...

The setting is the 1750s, mostly in London. Lord John Grey is the younger son of an aristocratic family, and an officer in King George's army. He is also homosexual, which is incidental to the plot but a lynchpin of his character. For instance, when noticing a pox-chancre on his cousin's fiance's penis, his first thought is that he might be considered to have been looking with intent, rather than glancing over as the man relieved himself.

Grey's efforts to avoid having his cousin exposed to scandal, or pox, would be sufficient plot: but there is also a murder to be solved, a possible traitor in the ranks, and a brothel which provides more than the usual range of services.

This was a fun read, though not as captivating as I'd hoped. There are plenty of interesting characters, both male and female, and some piquant social observation, especially when Grey is conducting his investigations in the brothels and mollyhouses of Georgian London.

I didn't, to be truthful, form much of an attachment to Grey himself, though he has many commendable qualities. He's honourable, intelligent, cynical, kind, competent ... but somehow hollow. That said, I do find myself wanting to read more about him. His lightly-sketched back-story is intriguing, and the basic premise -- spy-soldier solves crimes, keeps his feelings to himself -- appeals. I note there are several other novels in the sequence, which connects to Gabaldon's better-known Outlander blockbusters.

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