My new crime thriller Oracle is set in Delphi, Greece, close to the ancient Temple of Apollo half way up Mount Parnassus. The crimes happen during an international conference taking place at the European Cultural Centre which lies just outside the town of Delphi. The ECCD is a real place, which I visited at the end of last century when I attended a conference there.
The Centre was founded in the 1970s, as a way of taking forward the modern Festivals held at Delphi in the 20s and 30s which were, in turn, a revival of the Festivals and Games held here in classical times. Now the Centre is home to the Delphi Academy of European Studies which hosts symposia on European subjects, puts on performances of Greek drama ( in the ancient Theatre as well as the new, purpose built one ) and has an excellent collection of modern art. You can read more about it here.
It has a stunning and scenic position, high up and looking down to Itea on the Gulf of Corinth. The Conference Centre and Guesthouse nestle among the cypress trees on the mountainside and there are private suites (one of which is occupied, in the novel, by a government Minister and his party).
Aside from the view and the nearby ancient Temple, I remember its fine, confident modern architecture, using local stone as well as concrete and lots of glass – making the most of those spectacular views. My heroine, Cassandra, occupies one of the rooms in the Guesthouse (left) above the restaurant on the ground floor.
It was November when I was there and the weather wasn’t kind – it was mostly raining, but the mountain peaks were snow covered. As I sat in that same restaurant with a storm raging outside and the lights flickering, briefly, a fellow conference goer suggested that it would be a tremendous place for a murder mystery. Over twenty years later, when Claret Press suggested that I write one, the ECCD and the beautiful ancient temple nearby immediately sprang to mind.
So it was Delphi, not London, which was the setting which I thought of first, but it soon became apparent to me that my first book, introducing the recurring character of my detective and her associates, should be set where most of the books would be taking place and that was London. From there on it had to be Westminster and Thorney Island, places which I knew very well, having trodden the streets there for years. Thus was Plague born. At the end of Oracle it is where Cassie returns to for the third book in the series, Opera, although I confess that I do have a yen to take her off to Rome at some point in the future, another city which I know very well.
I should point out that the title of this article is misleading, however. The ECCD is not, in fact, the scene of the crime, although it is there that both murderer and victim(s) meet. And that, I’m afraid, is all you will get out of me about the plot.
Oracle (Claret Press) will be published on 5th May 2021. It will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon and via the Claret Press website.