Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon is a collection of three short stories following the adventures of Lord John Gray. ("A Novel" on the cover is misleading. This is not a novel.)
In Lord John and the Hellfire Club, a young man is murdered in front of Lord John. He promises revenge for the young man's death. While on the hunt, he is invited to join the mysterious fraternity of the Hellfire Club. This just might lead him to a killer. I can't say more since this is a very short story. I had the strangest sense of deja-vu and it took me a few pages to realize that I've read this one before. It was added to Lord John and the Private Matter. However, I had forgotten enough to enjoy this one. It has a twisted ending.
Lord John and the Succubus was also written for another collection (I hadn't read it though). Lord John is with the army in Prussia. Rumours of a 'night hag' who steals a man's essence run through the camp. John shrugs it off as local superstition until the death of an English soldier rattles the men. Lord John must get to the bottom of this mystery, is there truth to the stories? There is a bit of the supernatural element to this story even though Lord John is a man with his feet firmly planted on the ground. It's interesting to watch him puzzle this one out.
Lord John and the Haunted Soldier was written just for this collection. Lord John has been badly injured after a canon he was responsible for blows up, killing a man. To add insult to injury, an inquiry asks him difficult questions that cause him to doubt himself. Is he responsible for the destruction of the canon? While trying to clear his name, he stumbles upon a possible cover up involving several canons. He also must find the widow of the fallen soldier who was left penniless and in disgrace. I didn't quite enjoy this one as much as the others. There was something about the ending that I didn't like.
Lord John, originally a minor character in the Outlander series, becomes fully fleshed out as a person in his own right. There's something very endearing about him. He might not mean to get himself involved in these mysteries but his sense of honour compels him to see them through to the end, even though there might be some unpleasantness. Lord John is an interesting character in that he must hide his true nature while at the same time he is a human being in need of love and companionship. It is almost impossible for him to be gay at this point in history.
I loved some of the characters that make appearances in these stories. John's valet Tom Byrd is a fiercely loyal employee but he's not afraid to speak his mind. Harry Quarry also returns in 2 of the stories. He seems to be the complete opposite of John but a more loyal friend John doesn't have. As always, Gabaldon immerses us in the period. There's plenty of 18th century dirt and grit. The only trouble I had with this collection is the timeline. It's hard to pinpoint when the events are happening and how old John is during all of this.
Highly recommended to any Gabaldon fan.
Thanks to Random House.