Outlander Book Club: Lord John and the Private Matter Chapter 2 breakdown

Lord John Grey visits Mrs. O'Connell in Lord John and the Private Matter Chapter 2. Here's our breakdown of the chapter.
Outlander Season 6 -- Courtesy of Robert Wilson/STARZ
Outlander Season 6 -- Courtesy of Robert Wilson/STARZ /

We get to see Lord John Grey get into detective mode in Lord John and the Private Matter Chapter 2. He hasn’t even been asked to solve the murder, but he will. This is clear foreshadowing that it’s going to happen.

John goes to visit Mrs. O’Connell to pay his respects. However, he learns a lot more than he bargained for just by meeting her. It turns out that she is pregnant, and the baby is likely not her late husband’s. The plot thickens when it comes to murder.

There are also thoughts of treatments for syphilis. While waiting for Mrs. O’Connell, he is at an apothecary, where he sees some of the treatments for the disease. However, John notes that it was the treatments that ended up killing a former friend.

Let’s dive into the chapter and see whether it could be used if there was an adaptation.

Chapter 2 of Lord John and the Private Matter

The chapter starts with John and Malcolm Stubbs heading to where Mrs. O’Connell lives. Her landlord, Finbar Scanlon, shares that Mrs. O’Connell went out to settle the details for her husband’s burial. The two decide that they will wait, and they have a drink with Scanlon.

This gives John some time to find out a little more about O’Connell’s death He doesn’t get any answers, though. Instead, his mind wanders to the other private matter he is dealing with. He sees mercuric sulphide and guiacum, remedies for syphilis. John wonders if he should put some of this in Joseph’s food, while also noting that a friend died of syphilis, and it could have been the treatment that killed him in the end.

We know now that mercury is poisonous, but it was used for a lot of treatments in the past. John seems to be a little ahead of his time by thinking that the treatment was the likely thing that killed his friend.

Mrs. O’Connell is actually home, and John and Malcolm find out that she was badly beaten. It’s clear from the lack of wounds on Scanlon’s hands that he had nothing to do with it. As John realizes that Mrs. O’Connell is five months pregnant, he puts a lot together.

O’Connell’s regiment got back only six weeks ago but Mrs. O’Connell only saw him two days ago. Before their return, Mrs. O’Connell hadn’t seen her husband for around a year. John realizes that Scanlon is the likely father of the baby, and it’s possible that O’Connell attacked his wife for this. This then likely led to Mrs. O’Connell killing her husband.

Mrs. O’Connell refuses the “shroud money” that the officers collected for her husband’s funeral costs. She will take his pension money, though, sharing that she earned that one. This certainly gives us a good idea about their marriage.

Could the chapter be used in an adaptation?

Should there be a Lord John Grey series, we will need to see this chapter be adapted. This is important to start putting the clues together for O’Connell’s murder. It’s clear that the man likely had a temper—although can you really blame him being angry when his wife was with another man while he was away? I’m not giving him an excuse to beat his wife, but this was a different time period and it’s no wonder he was angry at her.

This chapter also shows us how Lord John is able to handle two situations at once. He can’t help but want to figure out the murder case, but he is also thinking about his cousin and trying to protect her. Is it possible that he’s even considering murder to help avoid all embarrassment. Is it murder when syphilis is an incurable disease that ends up in death, anyway?

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