Gabaldon, Diana: (201) Lord John and the Private Matter

Lord John and the Private Matter is the latest novel by Diana Gabaldon, and set in the same world as her Outlander series. Lord John Grey is a secondary character in that series, and one of my favorites, so I was quite looking forward to this mystery, set off-stage during the Outlander series.

Unfortunately, this failed to live up to my expectations, for two reasons. First, I wasn’t impressed with it as a mystery. Obvious conclusions seemed not to be followed up, a key obfuscating detail appears to exist just to obfuscate, and overall I found it hard to follow and unengaging. Second, there’s very little development or growth of our protagonist—which I don’t think is an inevitable result of its interstitial nature, because there are hints at the end that some relationships might develop in the next book (apparently there are to be three). Here, John is worried and runs around trying to figure things out, and that’s about it. I really like his character when he appears in other books, but here, there just wasn’t enough tension on a personal level to draw me in.

Also, I know the title is appropriate on several levels, but I still don’t like it.

I hope my suspicions about the path of the second book are correct and we get a story about Lord John, not just a plot. This first one was rather a disappointment.

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  1. I recently read this book and found it quite fun. It was fluffy Gabaldon. It wasn’t as compelling as some of her other books, but I found my house falling apart as I preferred to read rather than clean.

    Having said that, I will also say that mysteries never impress me, so I don’t really care about that aspect. I didn’t really see a key obfuscating detail that seemed gratuitous, but this could be due to my cluelessness.

    I did miss the tension on a personal level. I think Gabaldon is quite good at that (I’m rereading Outlander and finding it much more compelling because of that). I’m looking forward to the next books in the series. This one wasn’t up to her normal standards, but I still found it a reasonable read.

    I’ve found you by way of Thomas Yan, by the way.

  2. (SPOILERS!)

    The novella in _Legends II_ is better on the personal tension front, though I’m a touch disappointed because I thought we’d get “Lord John goes to Germany, sparks fly with big blond man” in the next book, and instead it *looks* like that story’s complete in the novella. (Which will make the opening of the second book odd, because the German story is so clearly set up by the end of the book.)

    As for details, it was the shaved legs I was thinking of–we never found out why the owner thereof bothered. Which annoyed me.

    I’m definitely a fan; her novella was the first thing I read in the latest _Legends_. But I wonder if a single unified plot isn’t difficult for her.

  3. Yikes, I had no idea about Legends II. I just put it on hold. I agree that the end of the book totally sets the scene for John and the German. Maybe the novella will be included in the next novel?

    Re: shaved legs… It is true that it seemed sort of gratuitous, but I guess I just thought she was trying to portray that guy (whose name I’ve already forgotten) as somehow different (and worse) from John even though both enjoy intimate relations with men.

    What I was wondering about was whether John was going to end up with syphilis too. Didn’t he have sex with that guy too? Maybe I’m just confused about the transmission means though.

  4. I hope the novella doesn’t end up included, because that would be 1) very strange, when you see the shape of the story and 2) kind of a cheat for the reader.

    As far as syphillis, I doubt it has a 100% effective transmission rate, but I can’t recall who John might’ve slept with to put him at risk, anyway.

  5. Yes, it would definitely be a cheat for the reader. I assume that Gabaldon will assume her readers will know this story. I guess we will just have to see what she does.

    As for who John slept with, didn’t he sleep with Mayerhofer at the Lavender house? I could have sworn that was what I read, but maybe in my haste I was confused.

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