Lord John Grey is called before a Commission of Inquiry to account for a cannon, of which he took command on a Prussian battlefield, after the gun's real commander, Lieutenant Lister, was killed. The gun exploded, leaving John and several fellow soldiers wounded, and now the commission is insinuating that John may have been negligent in his duty. They also bring up the name of John's half-brother, who happens to make gun powder that's often used in the cannons. Having no intention of allowing himself or his family to be railroaded by the commission, John undertakes the task of looking into the matter himself, while also being asked by Lister's father to search for the erstwhile lieutenant's fiancée who is believed to be carrying his child, and he's surprised by the information he finds on both counts.
Lord John and the Haunted Soldier is a novella in Diana Gabaldon's Lord John Grey series that falls immediately after Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade. I enjoyed Lord John and the Haunted Soldier better than the first two novellas in Lord John and the Hand of Devils, the anthology in which it's found. I think that's because, rather than being a stand-alone story, it's more of a continuation of events from Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, which made it a little more interesting to me. It also, like the novels, has a more personal flavor to it, involving John's older half-brother, whom we've not met up until this point and other familiar characters from the previous novel. So overall, Lord John and the Haunted Soldier held my attention equally as well as the novels have so far.
As I said this novella picks up where Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade left off, with John being called before a Commission of Inquiry. They are investigating the explosion of the cannon that badly injured John and other soldiers, as well as the death of Lieutenant Lister, who'd been in command of the cannon before being decapitated by an enemy cannonball and Lord John took over. The Commission seems to be insinuating that John made a mistake which led to the cannon being destroyed, or even perhaps his half-brother, Edgar, who makes the powder for the cannon might have had something to do with it. This leaves John to figure out exactly what did happen to make sure his and his brother's good names aren't dragged through the mud. At the same time, he finds himself agreeing to search for the ill-fated Lister's fiancée, who was believed to have been with child. The two investigations end up intersecting in surprising ways.
John's investigation into the cannon leads him down a twisting path of corruption and dirty dealings that also connects up with Bowles, a mysterious figure who's been lurking in the background throughout the series. The more personal side of the investigation leads to a sad and twisted tale of unrequited love. I enjoyed both because they kept me guessing and wondering what new connections John might find next. I also liked meeting new members of John's family, who seem like good people. Throughout all this John continues to deal with the pain and fear of death associated with a piece of shrapnel still lodged in his chest. He also continues to pine for Jamie, regrets the heated the words they exchanged in the last book, and finds comfort in writing letters to his old friend. The only reason I knocked off the half star is because there were one or two plot points that were a tad hard to follow and a couple of places that were just a little slow, but otherwise, Lord John and the Haunted Soldier was a very good read. John is an excellent hero who I very much look forward to reading more about in the coming stories.
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