<B>Gabaldon's intriguing return</B> With <B>Lord John and the Private Matter</B>, best-selling author Diana Gabaldon launches a new series featuring a character well known to fans of her popular Outlander books. Lord John Grey was first introduced in <I>Dragonfly in Amber</I> as a 16-year-old soldier captured by Jamie Fraser during the Jacobite uprising. He was later administrator of the military prison where Fraser was confined. Which of the many private matters involving Lord John Grey are alluded to in the title sets the ambiguous tone for this period novel of deception and intrigue.

Set between June 1757 and August 1758, the novel opens as Grey is biding his time on the home front between military assignments. What he has seen in the confines of his London private club could inflame familial scandal if not handled discreetly. Grey suspects that Joseph Trevelyan the man engaged to Grey's cousin, Olivia might have venereal disease. His inquiries about Trevelyan in London brothels are interrupted by his superiors, who appoint him to investigate the murder of a fellow soldier. Grey finds that his reputation, career and family could be irreparably damaged if he fails to be appropriately circumspect in this matter as well.

Gabaldon is known for her lengthy page-turners. This novel, which started out as a short story, is somewhat shorter than her previous work but just as packed with vivid description and detail. Gabaldon ably transports the reader to 18th century London, with all its reeking humanity and glitteringly elegant excess.

Grey's sexual predilection and his relationship with Fraser are fleetingly mentioned throughout the book. These references might confuse those unfamiliar with the Outlander saga, but for the most part the book stands admirably on its own.

Fans are sure to snap up this volume. If you've not yet encountered Gabaldon's earlier books but enjoy reading about spies and historic intrigue, this crafty tale of intertwined mysteries will surely please. <I>Linda Dailey Paulson is a Ventura, California-based freelance writer.</I>

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