Lord John Grey owes a debt of honor to his old friend, Charlie Carruthers, who gave him all the information and evidence he needs to bring corrupt military officer, Gerald Siverly, to justice. After reviewing the statements made by Charlie, who has since passed away, John's brother, Hal, agrees that the only course of action is a court-martial against Siverly. The only problem is that their wanted man is currently residing in Ireland, which could present a problem with getting him back to England to stand trial. John is tasked with making this happen one way or the other, but before he can go, there's the matter of a poem found amongst the documents Charlie left them that is written in Gaelic that neither John, nor Hal, can translate. Needing to know what it says in order to have complete information, Hal, against John's wishes, calls upon Jamie Fraser not only to translate the text, but also to accompany John in case there's any trouble.
Jamie has been living a quiet life as an indentured servant at Helwater, the estate owned by John's friends. John and Jamie used to share a close friendship, but the last time they met, angry words passed between then, and they haven't spoken since, which makes their reunion awkward and strained. On top of that, Jamie is approached by Tobias Quinn, an old acquaintance who was also an intimate of Charles Stewart. He tells Jamie that the Jacobite movement is far from dead and he wants Jamie to help lead another revolt. Knowing what the future holds and that the Jacobites can never win, he refuses, but Quinn is not easily put off. The man shows up in Ireland, insinuating himself into Jamie and John's affairs in hopes of persuading Jamie to take up the mantle of their cause. This leads to some unexpected connections and danger that they hadn't foreseen. Can John and Jamie put aside their differences to work together toward a common goal and keep each other alive?
The Scottish Prisoner is now my favorite of the Lord John Grey books I've read to date. I've enjoyed the other books and novellas, too, but there are a couple of big reasons why this one is a step above the others. First is that, while there is a military element in the story, it doesn't permeate it. There's no wartime action or battles being fought. It's all about Lord John trying to find and collect, Gerald Siverly, a corrupt British army officer, from Ireland and bring him to justice by returning him to England for a court-martial. This will also fulfill the vow he made to his friend, Charlie Carruthers, before he passed away. Charlie provided John with the necessary documents and testimony to indict Siverly in the previous novella of the series, The Custom of the Army. This doesn't turn out to be quite as straightforward of a matter as it seems, which leads to some mystery, intrigue, and adventure along the way. Another thing that made this book more enjoyable is that Jamie plays a huge part in it. I'd say that about half the book is about him and/or written from his POV. I love how well Jamie and John play off each other. The relationship between then in this story is initially awkward and strained because of things both said in the heat of the moment at the end of Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, but as they spend time working together on the case, they slowly start getting back to that place of friendship and camaraderie they've always shared. The two men are very well-matched in many ways including wit, intelligence, loyalty, and honor. They're two characters who mesh well on the page and who I very much enjoy seeing together. So, less military descriptions helped to prevent the story from being a little too dry, like some of the others of the series have been, while Jamie and John together brought a certain warmth to the character interactions that wasn't as prevalent in past stories.
I've loved John since he was introduced in the Outlander series. He's an honorable man who takes his military service very seriously as well as the vows he makes to his friends. That's why he feels he must undertake the mission to bring Siverly to justice by whatever means necessary. And he does a very admirable job of it, I might say. However, before he goes on that mission, John's old friend, Stephan von Namtzen, shows up in London. The author has been toying with the possibility of a potential romantic relationship between these two since they met at the beginning of the series, so I very much enjoyed seeing them finally get together in this book. It was a pretty brief interlude, though, because of Stephan's need to get back to Prussia and John's need to get on with finding Siverly, but it was a very romantic and sexy moment nonetheless, even though there isn't a great deal of detail. Despite having feelings for Stephan, John also still has feelings for Jamie, too, which is part of why things are still awkward between them at first. I've always felt that John genuinely loves Jamie, but he's realistic enough to understand that there can never be anything between them besides friendship. However, we see him getting one step closer to that permanent bond he shares with Jamie in the later Outlander books, though Jamie's son and his step-son, William. John started having suspicions about William's true parentage in Brotherhood of the Blade and he finally brings that full-circle by fully realizing the truth.
Any book or story I get to see Jamie in is a real treat. He has a couple of different plotlines going in this story. One, of course, is being called upon by John's brother, Hal, to help translate a poem connected to the Siverly case that was written in Irish Gaelic and then Hal further twisting his arm to get Jamie to go with John to Ireland as "backup." But at the same time, Jamie is approached by an Irish Jacobite he knew from the Rising. The man wants Jamie to help lead a new Rising, but to do so, he has to go to Ireland to collect an artifact that the Jacobites believe will help them win this time. Of course, Jamie, knowing there is no hope of the Jacobites ever winning, wants nothing to do with this scheme, but the man is persistent, following him and John all the way to Ireland, only to have his plotline converge unexpectedly with Siverly's. Throughout his part of the story, Jamie is... well... Jamie.:-) He's smart, cunning, and always up for an adventure, although going on that adventure with John isn't too appealing at first. I like that he doesn't hold a grudge, though, and that he gradually comes around to rekindling his friendship with the other man. The thing that really tore at my heart is how much Jamie still loves and misses Claire. At this point, she's been gone for a number of years, and even knowing that they're eventually reunited, it still greatly affected me. There was one small moment that John bore witness to that tugged at his heart, too. We also get to see more of Jamie with Willy. I'm so glad that he got to be a part of the boy's life for at least a while, but it breaks my heart that he didn't get to be a more hands-on father with either of his kids growing up, because he's a great one.
There were a few common secondary characters that show up again in The Scottish Prisoner. John's brother, Hal, and his wife, Minnie, whose love story is now told in the new novella, A Fugitive Green (from Seven Stones to Stand or Fall), played a part. As John's commanding officer, Hal is in charge of the investigation into Siverly's misconduct, while Minnie, a former spy who actually knows Jamie, provides them with helpful information. Hal and John's friend, Harry Quarry, shows up, too, kind of freaking Jamie out a bit at first, since he acted as warden at Ardsmuir prison before John did. Dr. John Hunter, the real-life physician known as the "body-snatcher," plays a brief role as the surgeon called to the site of a duel in which John is involved. Of course, I very much enjoyed seeing little Willy and the Dunsanys. Isobel gets herself into a bit of hot water, while her aging parents are starting to think toward the future for both their daughter and grandchild. However, probably the most important secondary player was Jamie's old acquaintance, Tobias Quinn, who I believe was first introduced in this book. I had to admire his persistence on some level, but at the same time, he's a rather tragic figure who can't seem to let go of the past and a doomed cause.
Overall, The Scottish Prisoner was a great read. John and Jamie went through a lot in this story that tested their mettle as individuals, but at the same time, I think they make a wonderful team. When things aren't strained between them, they work and play off each other in such a way that's fun to read. I've always loved them together, and it was nice to see more of the building of the friendship that led to that permanent bond I spoke of and some other events surrounding them in the Outlander series. If I'm not mistaken, Jamie has a few more years of service at Helwater before going back to Scotland, so I'd definitely be open to more stories that fill in the blanks of his time there, and if Ms. Gabaldon pairs him up with John again, all the better.:-)
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