‘Is this a modern murder mystery or are primal forces reaching out from the past?’
It is a pleasure to welcome Julie Anderson, author of the Cassandra Fortune series, to Swirl and Thread today. Plague (Book 1) was published in September 2020 and now Claret Press will be publishing Oracle (Book 2) May 5th. Julie has written a really interesting guest post entitled ‘Beware the Ides of March’ so please do continue reading to find out more about Oracle from Julie Anderson.
[ About the Book ]
Near the ancient Temple of Apollo, young idealists protest at a European governmental conference. Inside, business lobbyists mingle with lawmakers, seeking profit and influence. Then the charismatic leader of the protest goes missing.
The next day a body is discovered, placed like an offering to the gods. One day later a recent, broken corpse is found at the foot of the cliffs from where blasphemers were once tossed to their deaths.
As a storm closes in and strange lights are seen on the mountain, power at the conference centre is cut off and all are isolated. No one trusts anyone else. Is a killer stalking the corridors? Or are primal forces reaching out from the past? Like the cryptic Oracle of Delphi, Cassandra Fortune must supply the answer before the conference is over.
And before more die.
[ Guest Post ]
‘Beware the Ides of March’
So says the, unnamed, soothsayer to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play to warn him of his doom. This particular soothsayer isn’t named, but he or she wasn’t an ‘official’ soothsayer, an Augur or member of a priesthood, because they could only be men. More likely this is a ‘wise woman’ and part of a long tradition in legend and in literature, of women foreseeing the future.
One of the most famous is Cassandra, daughter of King Priam of Troy, who foresaw the Trojan War and advised her fellows not to bring the Wooden Horse inside Troy’s walls. She was, legend has it, beloved of the god Apollo, who gave her the gift of ‘second sight’ but, when she refused his sexual advances, cursed her, so that, even though she could tell the future, no one would ever believe her. She appears in Homer, in much Greek drama and many later books and plays. The heroine of my mystery/thriller series is also Cassandra, in part because I wanted her to be so clever a detective that she could ‘see’ who was the culprit and, in part, because she is such a complex character, with a distinct tendency towards self-sabotage.
In ‘Oracle’ (Claret Press), the second book in my Cassandra Fortune series, Cassandra is on a diplomatic mission to a conference at Delphi, the site of the ancient Temple of Apollo and a real ‘soothsayer’ – the Pythia. The Oracle at Delphi was famous throughout the pagan Mediterranean world and her fame was such that Delphi became very rich. This, real, prophetess was thought to speak with the voice of the God – the word ‘prophetess’ originally meant ‘spokeswoman’ – when in a divine inspired trance. Everyone who was anyone in the ancient world would travel to Delphi to consult her, statesmen, kings and princes, even Great Pharaoh of Egypt. The Pythia only prophesied on nine days a year but, archaeologists now believe there could, in later times, have been as many as nine Pythias working at once, so as to maximise the number of consultations ( and, naturally, the wealth ).
The trance or mania of the Pythia was written about widely in ancient times and, traditionally, she sat upon her tripod – a three legged stool – above a crevasse from which gases would rise, causing her to enter a trance-like state. No evidence of this had ever been found and the story was discredited, until the late twentieth century. As the tour guide character in my novel says ‘Geologists have found that two geological fault lines cross beneath Delphi, with fissures under the Temple itself which allow small amounts of naturally occurring gas to rise to the surface. Rock testing showed ethane, methane and ethylene – formerly used as an anaesthetic – to be present. These would create a trace-like state and, if a lot was consumed, a form of wild mania.’ So the ancient accounts were not so far out after all.
I visited Delphi, long before COVID. It is spectacular and beautiful place, where humans have lived for over five thousand years and it really does have a sense of the divine lying close to the surface. The past is ever present there, as it is, I hope, in the novel. My characters work at the Museum or the Temple site, uncovering history and Cassandra, the central character, must confront the consequences of events in her own recent past, which took place in Plague the first book in the series.
The investigation begins when a murdered body is found in the temple precinct, placed like an offering to the gods. One day later a recent, broken corpse is found at the foot of the cliffs from where blasphemers were once tossed to their deaths. A recently bereaved character goes to the Temple seeking blood justice to summon the Erinyes, the Furies, to hunt down the murderer.
Is this a modern murder mystery or are primal forces reaching out from the past? Like the cryptic Oracle of Delphi, my heroine must supply the answer so that law, not vengeance, triumphs. She is called Cassandra, so soothsayer or detective, Oracle is aptly named.
Oracle is published by Claret Press on 5th May 2021.
[ Bio ]
Julie Anderson is an author and writer, who worked for many years in Westminster and Whitehall for a variety of government departments, including the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. This informed her first successful political thriller, ‘Plague’. She is currently writing the third in the series of novels featuring civil servant investigator Cassandra Fortune. The second ‘Oracle’ is published by Claret Press on 5th May 2021
Julie is Chair of Trustees of Clapham Writers, the charity responsible for the annual Clapham Book Festival, an annual celebration of reading in south London which will take place this year on 16th October.
Website – www.julieandersonwriter.com
Twitter – @jjulieanderson