An Echo in the Bone

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7)An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Negative: Too long, too confusing with four different plot lines, pacing – we get bogged down with nothing happening and then everything happens at once, too many incidental characters that serve no real purpose, a number of incontinuities with previous books and even within this book (Willie and Ian, Jamie and Willie, etc.), characters in contrived situations that seem quite out of character (Claire and Lord John – seriously?), and of course four different cliff hanger endings. Well, I can wait for the next book. And in the meantime I feel as if I need to go back and reread the entire series from the beginning to try and sort everything out. This one desperately needed some serious editing.

Positive: I still love all the characters – Jamie and Claire, Roger and Bree, Jemmy and Mandy, Ian and Rachel, and Lord John. Not sure about Willie yet. And I like Lord John better in his own books. He seems a bit stiff in this one. I still love the immense period detail and descriptions of every day life. In the end, that’s all this book comes down to, because the plot arc is not resolved, but to be continued… probably in at least two more books. And I still love how Davina Porter (narrator) handles the various voices.

Book Description:
Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun.

Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles–as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.

With stunning cameos of historical characters from Benedict Arnold to Benjamin Franklin, An Echo in the Bone is a soaring masterpiece of imagination, insight, character, and adventure–a novel that echoes in the mind long after the last page is turned.

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Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner

Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner (Lord John Grey, #3)Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Outlander series and the Lord John series intersect in this story, which brings Lord John and Jamie together again. Forced into daily contact with his former jailer, Jamie gradually softens and we get to see the beginning of healing, respect for each other, and even friendship. The audio version used two different narrators to show the alternating point of view of the characters. I thought that was very effective. While the book could probably stand on its own, I loved how characters from other stories made a reappearance: John’s brother,Hal, his valet, Tom Bird, Stephan von Namtzen, Harry Quarry, and, of course, Jamie Fraser and his son, Willie.

Book description: London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of-war, life is coming apart at the seams. In the remote Lake District, where he’s close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own, Jamie’s quiet existence is interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of an erstwhile comrade still fighting to rally the Irish. But Jamie has 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 is in possession of explosive documents that expose a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. 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.

Lord John and the Hand of Devils

Lord John and the Hand of DevilsLord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I do like Lord John, and I think he works well in novella format. Each of these tales has at least some nominal paranormal frame of reference. I’m not sure I would call them mysteries, however. The second story is my favorite. It was well developed, and Diana’s wit and humor is allowed to shine. The third story is the most introspective, and lets us get to know John and his family a little better. Those who were put off by the sex scenes in Brotherhood of the Blade won’t find anything to bother them here.

Description:
Diana Gabaldon delivers three tales of war, intrigue, and espionage that feature one of her most popular characters: Lord John Grey.

In Lord John and the Hellfire Club, Lord John glimpses a stranger in the doorway of a gentlemen’s club—and is stirred by a desperate entreaty to meet in private. The rendezvous forestalled by a sudden murder, Lord John will wade into a maze of political treachery and a dangerous, debauched underground society. . . . In Lord John and the Succubus, English soldiers fighting in Prussia are rattled by the nocturnal visitations of a deadly woman who sucks life and soul from a man. Called to investigate the night-hag, Lord John finds a murdered soldier and a treacherous Gypsy, and comes to the stark realization that among the spirits that haunt men, none frighten more than the specters conjured by the heart. . . . In Lord John and the Haunted Soldier, Lord John is thrust into the deadly case of an exploding battlefield cannon. Wounded in the same battle, Lord John is called to testify and soon confronts his own ghosts—and the shattering prospect that a traitor is among the ranks of His Majesty’s armed forces.

Lord John and the Private Matter

Lord John and the Private Matter (Lord John Grey, #1)Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon

Book description:
The year is 1757. On a clear morning in mid-June, Lord John Grey emerges from London’s Beefsteak Club, his mind in turmoil. A nobleman and a high-ranking officer in His Majesty’s army, Grey has just witnessed something shocking. But his efforts to avoid a scandal that might destroy his family are interrupted by something still more urgent: The Crown appoints him to investigate the brutal murder of a comrade-in-arms who may have been a traitor. Obliged to pursue two inquiries at once, Major Grey finds himself ensnared in a web of treachery and betrayal that touches every stratum of English society—and threatens all he holds dear. From the bawdy houses of London’s night world to the stately drawing rooms of the nobility, Lord John pursues the elusive trails of a vanishing footman and a woman in green velvet, who may hold the key to everything—or nothing.

This was delightful! I’m giving it a 4.5. Lord John Grey is a character from the Outlander series. As with that series, the strength of Diana’s books is in her characters, not the plot. The mystery is fairly light-weight, but spiced with an almost slapstick kind of humor. Even the “bad” guys are quirky and almost lovable. I will say, that since this started out as a short story that grew into a full-length novel, the plotting and pacing is considerably tighter than the sprawling Outlander books. Those looking for more “Jamie and Claire” will be disappointed. There is one brief and non-explicit scene with a male prostitute. The focus is mystery rather than romance. The author has done her homework into the gay world of 18th-century London, but the reader is not overwhelmed by historical details.

I listened to this book alternately with reading it, and the slapstick humor really comes alive with narrator Jeffrey Woodman. Otherwise, the book is written in a fast-paced but rather dry style, which means a lot of the details get lost. I recommend the dual approach – listen to a chapter to get the overall picture, then read it to pick up on the more subtle details.

Lord John is one of my favorite fictional characters, honorable, dedicated to family, highly intelligent, well-read, and cultured. His homosexuality makes him something of a loner, but it also allows him access to the more marginalized social elements of society. I look forward to reading more of him.

The Fiery Cross

The Fiery Cross (Outlander, #5)The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another meandering entry in the Outlander saga. What it lacks in plot, it makes up for with interesting characters, lots of period detail, and some hair-raising adventures. I’d rank this one only a little behind the first and third in the series. Why is it that the odd numbers in a series tend to be better? That was definitely true of the Harry Potter series, too…

Book description from Amazon:
1771: the Colony of North Carolina stands in an uneasy balance, with the rich, colonial aristocracy on one side and the struggling pioneers of the backcountry on the other. Between them stands Jamie Fraser, a man of honour, a man of worth. Exiled from his beloved Scotland, he is at last possessed of the land he has longed for. By his side his extraordinary wife, Claire, a woman out of time and out of place, blessed with the uneasy gift of the knowledge of what is to come. In the past, that knowledge has brought both danger and deliverance to Jamie and Claire. Now it could be a flickering torch that will light their way through the perilous years ahead – or might ignite a conflagration that will leave their lives in ashes. “The Fiery Cross” is by turns poignant, page-turning, meticulous in its historical detail and searingly passionate.