"A Breath of Snow and Ashes"
(Delacorte Press, Hardcover, 1st Edition, 2005, read: March 06)
"It is 1772, the eve of the American Revolution, and the long fuse of rebellion has already been lit: In Boston, men lie dead in the street, and in the backwoods of North Carolina, isolated cabins burn in the darkness of the forest. And over the house on Fraser's Ridge, where Jamie Fraser and his family reside, a shadow lengthens ...
The Colony is in ferment, and Governor Josiah Martin sends an envoy to Jamie Fraser, asking for help. With unpardoned Regulators, agitating Whigs, and the vigilantes of the Committees of Safety at large, the Governor needs someone to unite the backcountry, pacify the seething resentments of settlers and Indians, and keep the mountains safe for King and Crown. Jamie Fraser, everyone agrees, is the man for the job.
But there is one problem: Jamie Fraser's wife, Claire, is a time-traveler, as are his daughter and son-in-law. And Jamie knows that three years hence, the shot heard round the world will be fired, and the end of it all will be independence - with those loyal to the King either dead or in exile. Beyond everything else, though, looms the threat of a tiny clipping from the Wilmington Gazette dated 1776, which reports the destruction of the house on Fraser's Ridge and the death by fire of James Fraser and all his family.
For once, Jamie Fraser hopes the time-travelers in his family are wrong about the future - but only time will tell."
The novel is very very thick and the story is very very long. The most important question up front: Do we reach the Civil War? Answer: Yes. Almost. It's visible nearby. The second question: Is the novel too long? Answer: No. Ok, maybe a tiny little bit. It took me quite some time to read it and in between I took a longer break. But there's a lot of stuff happening, some mysteries are solved, bad guys receive their due punishment and the cliffhanger at the end leaves the reader asking for more in the last (or maybe still 'last-but-one') part. If you know your American history and how the Civil War went then you'll get the most out of it. For the remaining readers its a thrilling history lesson.
[Dorothée Büttgen, February 07]
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"Lord John and the Private Matter"
(Century, Paperback, 1st edition, 2003, read: January 2004)
"The year is 1757. On a bright June day, Lord John Grey emerges from his 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 might well 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 level of society - and threatens all he holds dear. From the bawdy-houses of London's night world to the drawing rooms of the nobility, from the blood of a murdered corpse to the thundering seas of the East India Company, Lord John follows the elusive trail of the woman in green who may hold the key to everything - or to nothing at all."
At first Lord John was only a minor figure in the Highlander-saga but since he's such a nice and likable guy he got his own mystery series. Jamie and Claire are mentioned once or twice by name but other than that they don't play a role in this story.
Regarding the plot its a classic mystery: Why and by whom was the soldier murdered? How is his widow involved? And who is the mysterious woman in the green dress who constantly crosses Lord Johns path. Is she really a woman?
The story gives a detailed look into 18th century London, as the reader is used to by Ms. Gabaldon's books. There's only one catch: the story isn't really thrilling, nor is it new, nor is is in any other way interesting. Lord John certainly is a nice guy, whom one cares for immediately, but that's all for sympathy points. In the end one asks oneself what the novel is good for. The fascination of earlier Gabaldon works (and with that I mean the first three Highlander-books) doesn't come up at all.
[Dorothée Büttgen, February 04]
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