Genre: historical mystery
This is more about a character than an individual book, since I’m recommending every book he’s in. Lord John Grey is my favorite character over the age of 30. In him, Gabaldon combines every trait I eat up in fiction – brilliance, wit, caution, bravery, a certain level of reserve, and built-in conflict.
John Grey is the younger brother of a duke who (for reasons entwined in the plot of one of the books) prefers to use his father’s lesser title, something that occasionally leads to awkward moments during introductions. John is rich, cultured, good-looking, and a commissioned officer in the English army, everything a man wants to be in mid-18th century England. Being an English soldier is a core part of his identity.
Grey is also gay, at a time when “homosexual activity” is punishable by death. And he’s in love with Jamie Fraser, a married (and hetero) Scotsman who was an officer on the opposite side during the Jacobite Rebellion (or Jacobite Rising). They get to know each other (no, not in the Biblical sense) when Grey is put in charge of Ardsmuir Prison, where Fraser is a prisoner for some time.
Grey is a minor character in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, where (to me) he takes over every scene he’s in despite sharing pages with some of the most dynamic characters I’ve had the privilege of reading about. He’s the protagonist in the Lord John books, solving mysteries that bring him in contact with different branches of several militaries, different echelons of society, and in and out of Jamie Fraser’s presence.
We first meet Grey in the Outlander series as a sixteen year old. Attached to his older brother’s regiment, he’s captured by the Scots, and would rather have the laird in charge shoot him than answer any questions. But believing the English woman with the Scots is also a prisoner and in imminent danger, he offers information in exchange for a guarantee of her safety, information that leads to the Scots finding and attacking his own regiment. That laird was Jamie Fraser, and that English woman was Fraser’s wife, Claire (who is the point-of-view character with her own amazing story in Outlander, and one of several POV characters in the rest of the series).
I actually prefer the Outlander books (I’m not as much of a mystery genre reader, and the Outlander books are more historical fiction with a dash of fantasy and lots of medical emergencies, covering pretty much every war England was involved in at the time), but I recommend both series. More John Grey is better for everyone. J