Opera noun, Italian, feminine 1 work: 2 task, job: 3 artistic creation: 4 action, deed, handiwork: opere buone goods deeds: opera lettararia literary work: opera musicale opera: opera lirica opera.
Opera is, of course, also the title of my current work-in-progress, the third in the Cassandra Fortune series. As yet, it is nowhere near complete, even though it’s been written. Quite apart from matters of plot, of tension, surprise and revelation – the stock components of the crime thriller/mystery – there’s the theme to explore. In Plague it was power, in Oracle, justice, this time it’s truth. This is why Opera is set in the opaque world of secrets and the secret intelligence agencies, of smoke and mirrors where disinformation and deceit are the stock-in-trade and real truth, both in terms of fact and of understanding, is hard to find.
My heroine, Cassandra, has been a seeker of truth from the start, tracking down the killers in Plague, while attempting to get back to a position of power, mainly because she wants to have some impact and do something meaningful, but also because she cannot stand being on the outside, without knowledge of what is going on. She achieved her aim and landed a plum job working for the Prime Minister, but, in Oracle she learned that this wasn’t enough and she would have to address certain matters arising from her past if she wanted to escape them. Thus she sets out, at the beginning of the third book, to find out the truth of what happened at Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ), her former posting, when she was forced to leave it. Until now she had believed her dismissal was because of her own failings, but begins to see that there may have been other forces at work.
Thus Opera opens with Cassie going to visit her former boss, Angela Kayser, whose retirement paved the way for the shake-up which resulted in Cassie’s being made to move on. Angela, as head of GCHQ, is the modern equivalent of the Pythia in Oracle, the priestess of Delphi who listened to the voice of the god Apollo and delivered his message to the listening supplicants. GCHQ provides signal intelligence and information to the government and armed forces of the UK, monitoring voices from the ether and interpreting their messages, just as the Pythia did (though without the psychotropic gases). Cassie sought guidance from the Pythia and in Opera she seeks it from Angela. Both provide answers couched in riddles.
That’s all I’m about to disclose about the plot, though Cassie has to follow a labyrinthine trail of clues, often unsure of the direction they are taking her in and shrouded, like Plague‘s lost River Tyburn, in darkness. Set, once again, in London, its main locations are Whitehall, Number 10 Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, but Opera also takes in some of the less well-known and quirky gems of central London and, of course, the Royal Opera House. Needless to say, individuals from her more recent past also resurface, seeking revenge.
The title of this post, by the way, is from Friedrich Schiller’s ‘On the Aesthetic Education of Man’ (1795) and it sits, in its entirety – ‘Truth lives on in the midst of deception’ – on the frontispiece of the novel, together with the definition of ‘opera’.