I hadn’t read any of Gabaldon’s Outlander series, so this volume was an excellent introduction to the author’s style and the sweep of a multi-volume series that has fascinated legions of loyal fans. Although I was unfamiliar with the history of Jamie Fraser, a Scottish Jacobite officer paroled in England to aristocrat Lord John Grey since the defeat of the Cause, Gabaldon gives enough background information in this stand-alone novel to make this adventure a rewarding experience. A passionate Scott once loyal to the Jacobite Cause, if now defeated, Fraser is an entirely sympathetic character who dreams of the wife he has forfeited and the son he cannot claim, finished with politics since the terrible price exacted from the losing faction.
When Lord John Grey—at the urging of his titled brother—requests Fraser’s assistance with the translation of a poem written in the dialect of the Scottish Highlands that will also require a journey to Ireland, Jaime reluctantly agrees. It is necessary for Grey to ascertain the guilt or innocence of a British officer in a matter of treason. If found guilty of the crime, the officer will be arrested and returned to England for court martial, at the very least a potentially hazardous journey necessitating a low-profile for the two men. Jaime is understandably taken aback by the appearance of his former Jacobite comrade-in-arms, Tobias Quinn, who appears on the ocean voyage to Ireland and insinuates himself into the traveling party, hoping to convince Jaime to cooperate in his latest political scheme.
For his part, Fraser has enough trouble honoring his word to Grey and returning to his interrupted parole in England. Uninterested in further complications, he assiduously avoids unnecessary involvement with Quinn. No matter. The mission is shadowed by danger, treachery at every turn. The two soldiers, English and Scot, are thrown together in a series of violent encounters, their unexpected friendship deepening in spite of Jaime’s antipathy toward the English and natural hostility toward those who control his destiny.
While but a chapter in Jaime Fraser’s life (via the Outlander series), The Scottish Prisoner (A Lord John Novel) is enough of a sample to whet my appetite for the rest, a task with increasing appeal.