Cover Image: Oracle

Oracle

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Cassie Fortune gained the eye of the Prime Minister in her last adventure and is now  his personal envoy.  She is sent to Delphi to a conference to try to persuade a Greek minister to visit London for talks; she meets the minister who makes it clear he won't be coming.  Next day the body of a young woman is found in the temple ruins and the following day another body is found at the foot of a mountain cliff.  If Cassie can find out what is going on she may be able to persuade the minister to come to London.  One possibility is that Laurence Delahaye - the baddie she brought down last time - may be involved , in which case she will be in danger herself.  It's a gripping pacey read, you won't put it down.
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Cassie is back and after the brilliant debut ‘Plague’ was happy to see her and ‘catch up’ and see where life had taken her, this time we are in Greece, Delphi, and a Conference Centre where diplomats and civil servants are gathering for an environmental Conference, Cassie has gone on behalf of the UK PM and is trying to gain the Greek’s favour and to agree to their meeting with the PM
But bodies start to appear and Cassie ( maybe a bit unbelievably ) is drawn into the investigation and she tries to piece together what has happened and why and more importantly who has done the deedz
There is a fairly large cast of characters, some more appealing than others, I enjoyed how the Austrian’s were described…I did feel for Helena ( the translator for Cassie ) as felt Cassie was unreasonably rude almost bullying to her throughout
It’s a good if complexish story and the descriptions of Greece and it’s history and scenery enlightening
An interesting ending! 
I loved ‘Plague’ and liked ‘Oracle’ and look forward to Cassie’s next adventure 

7/10
3.5 Stars
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A most fascinating mystery, with an interesting cast of characters attending an international conference, set by a Greek city close to ancient ruins of temples to Greek Gods on a nearby mountain. When a local woman is found dead laid out on an altar, then followed by a missing Austrian delegate; what with thunder and lightning, rainstorms and mysterious lights seen at night on the mountain, there is enough red herrings together with rival vested political interests and different competing investigating entities to frustrate the murder investigations. Cassie who is the UK delegate who has also been charged by the PM with a diplomatic mission with a deadline that will not be completed if everyone is had as suspects. How she endeavours to bring the matter to a quick end could well bring herself to a sticky end too.
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3 stars
   
This murder mystery has a gorgeous setting in the remote Greek countryside, & some fun tidbits of ancient history. The writing is decent, but I couldn’t warm up to the MC, & some of the plot twists felt unnecessary.

[What I liked:]

•The descriptions of the Greek countryside are striking, & the writer seems well informed on the local history & customs of Delphi. 

•Ganas was a very sympathetic character, though flawed. I think he was my favorite character.

•Yannis & Meg were great characters too. Nicely complex & ultimately sympathetic. 


[What I didn’t like as much:]

•Would a foreign diplomat, with no police training, really take the lead on a forensic examination of a murder victim’s corpse instead of the homicide detective assigned to the case? That seemed odd & hard to believe. 

•I didn’t like how Cassie was so judgmental of Helena, & often quite rude to her. She kinda lectured Helena about hooking up with Yannis, which was none of her business, but when Helena expressed concern for Cassie’s safety (Cassie was being stalked by a serial killer) Cassie got all miffed & offended that she was trying to interfere. Cassie just came across as prickly & controlling & a bit condescending.

•Cassie does several dangerous, reckless things throughout the story. She’s either lacking in common sense, or really arrogant to do those things.

•The hostage scenario seemed really unnecessary & not very logical. It felt like it was only in the book to make things more exciting, but since the hostages never felt in any danger it wasn’t even that exciting.

CW: murder, PTSD, attempted sexual assault, 

[I received an ARC ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for the book!]
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Oracle by Julie Anderson is a recommended murder mystery and the second novel featuring Cassie Fortune, following Plague (2020).

It has been two months since the events that occurred in Plague. Cassie is still reeling from those events and trying to recover emotionally. In Oracle Cassie has been sent to Delphi, Greece where she is representing the Prime Minister of the UK and is scheduled to give a presentation on tax policy. Her real purpose for attending is to secure a future meeting in London between a Greek government minister and the Prime Minister. The center where the conference is being held on the slopes of Mount Parnassus near the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. Helena, Cassie's interpreter, meets her at the center and the two work well together. Quickly, the narrative introduces clues even before the first murder happens and Cassie is asked to help with the investigation.

At this point the novel takes on the task of melding the tried and true plot device found in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express with Classical mythology. Storms hit the conference center and phone lines are down. They are all isolated and the weather along with the terrain make investigating difficult. Basics of Classical Mythology are introduced in a visit to the Delphi Temple (so you won't need to refresh your memory). Complicating the plot are environmental protesters, the uncooperative and secretive way those involved in the investigation are behaving, the history of authoritarianism and justice in the area, and the group Golden Dawn.

Cassie is an interesting character and has to overcome a language barrier as well as cultural differences in her investigation. Admittedly, I still have not connected with her as a character after two novels, but I was able to overlook my qualms and enjoy the narrative. The action moves along at a quick pace with clues being provided almost right from the start. Classical Mythology has been a long time personal interest and I enjoyed the introduction of elements from mythology into the plot. I also liked the use of the plot device of isolating the characters. Some suspension of disbelief is, again, required as you follow Cassie's involvement in the investigation. Intermixed in the plot are current social and political concerns the author holds.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Claret Press in exchange for my honest opinion.
The review will be submitted for publication on Amazon, Google Books, and Barnes & Noble.
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Cassandra Fortune. or Cassie for short, is on her first mission for David Hurst, the UK Prime Minister as she flies out to Greece.  It’s only been 2 months since the events of Plague and she’s still recovering from the death of Andrew, a man who might have been much more in her life. Also, her ill-starred involvement with the villain Lawrence Delahaye.
But this is her chance to prove herself again.  She’s due to make a presentation on taxation reform at a public administration conference.  It may sound dull but her true purpose isn’t.  Cassie has been sent there to foster good relations and to bring a major Greek government minister back to London to speak to the PM.   The conference venue is high in the mountains near the Delphi temple ruins and she soon gets to know her interpreter, Helena, and some of her fellow delegates.  
However, Cassie’s suitcase doesn’t arrive at Athens airport which makes her late at the hotel and when it does appear it has a coded message inside from Delahaye.  He’s obviously not forgotten her.
Is he the mysterious person who follows her back to the hotel home one night?  But she is determined to concentrate on her important task.  However, a couple arguing in the room next door keep her awake and when she complains to the receptionist she is told that there’s no one booked into the room. She has cause to remember this when a local woman; Barbara Doukas, is found murdered, laid out on a plinth like an offering to the gods, at the ruins.  Then one of the Austrian delegates goes missing.  Are they connected? 

But, as a snowstorm closes in and the power and phone signals go down, Cassie is on a deadline to find the murderer.  She’s been drawn into the investigation as a neutral person since the police can’t be trusted.  Cassie knows that the murderer is among them. Is it Delahaye?  But the prize that David Hurst wants her to bring home is within her grasp as long as she finds the murderer before the police. It’s not long before she’s immersed in Greek politics, treading a fine line between the security chief, Iraklides, and the police and realising that the past and its repercussions are never far away.  A time when betrayal wasn’t a crime but a choice…..
This is a fast paced thriller and the author deftly handles the different plot strands.  Cassie is still reeling from recent events but determined to find justice for Barbara and make her mission a success. The pressure is on as she begins to see that her fellow delegates have their own agendas and are determined to get in her way.  And yet the mysterious ruins and their myths and reputations begin to draw her in.  What secrets do they hold?  I like Cassie as she is a determined and courageous woman and realises that she is in the middle of events as activists demonstrate and an ultra far right group, the Golden Dawn, are lurking in the background.
I liked the way that events from the previous book are alluded to and not conveyed as an infodump.  The author’s research really came to the fore and enhanced the plotlines.  I felt that I was being given knowledge instead of having it fed to me.  Although the plot device of the characters being isolated and stranded has been used often, I enjoyed the spectacular backdrop of the mountains and the ruins and a mysterious scream in the night.  
I’m looking forward to the 3rd book in the series ‘Opera’!
My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC.
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A few weeks after Cassie's horrendous experience in London, the new Prime Minister has shipped her off to historical Delphi to deliver a presentation on tax reform and persuade the Greek finance minister to visit London to meet the PM. Of course, nothing runs smoothly when Cassie is around and soon a woman is found dead in a ritual pose and an Austrian man is found dead at the foot of a surrounding mountains. Cassie is told that if she solves the case then the finance minister will agree to meet with the British PM.

Oh, Cassie.

I love ancient history so the references to Delphi and the different temples and gods and goddesses were charming. I also liked the links to ongoing social issues such as fracking and the environment and how this might have inspired protests. 

I just didn't really understand the book, if I'm honest! I don't know if my brain is a scramble but I still don't understand the motivation behind it all or why no one in the justice system in the book actually did what they should do. This may require a reread from me at some point.
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Oracle is the second book in the Cassandra Fortune series. Cassie is now in the employment of David Hurst, the British Prime Minister, and she is sent to Delphi, to a multinational conference, in the vicinity of Mount Parnassus, where he wants her to engineer a meeting with  the Greek Finance Minister, and persuade him to visit London. As cover, Cassie will be giving a speech on taxation. 
When Cassie arrives, the conference centre is surrounded by a mob of protestors. She spends a restless night, being disturbed by noise from the room next door. The receptionist however, tells Cassie that the room was unoccupied all night. When Cassie goes to breakfast, she is informed that people are missing, and she is asked to help with the murder enquiries as the body count climbs. 
We have some lovely tourist introductions to Delphi, the Temple of Apollo and the Delphi Museum, and as the events shift to the mountains, we explore the myths of the Erinyes, the furies that dominated this temple and due to a night of pyrexia, we meet the snake, the wolf and the seer , all of whom drag those guilty of blood crimes to Hades and eternal torment. I found this part fascinating and cursed my poor knowledge of Ancient Greek Mythology. 
I was disappointed that there was a sense of menace suggesting that a previous protagonist, Lawrence Delahaye, would be making an appearance, but that was not to be. We had a note in a suitcase, and the suggestion that he was stalking Cassie, but it all fizzled out, perhaps in book three? 
I do like Cassie, she is headstrong and capable. I also rated the interpreter Helen Gatakis very highly. The male roles fell short of their female counterparts, the Police were corrupt and lied, and there was always the essence of sexism in their attitudes. This novel tells of the importance of listening to family history, as startling events were revealed. Historical facts and mystical legends were skilfully employed. 
This book was good, in a different way to Plague, more mature and the characters are becoming more confident. I an so looking forward to the next book, Opera? 
I will leave reviews on Goodreads and Netgalley. Thanks to Claret Press for my ARC, in exchange for my unbiased review. I rate this as a four star read. When the libraries reopen, I will be recommending this series of books.
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This has an interesting plot written by a prolific, talented writer. The MC and the plot are sufficiently complex, and this has pretty good pacing. I missed Plague, the previous book, so I'll have to circle back. I look forward to her next tale.

Thanks very much for the ARC for review!!
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Thanks NetGalley and claret press for an advanced copy of oracle. I was so excited to read this book following the great success of the plague. However, disappointment set in right from the start and the more I read the more disappointed I got. The story line is unbelievable and I could not understand why the author included references to the previous villain other than to set up another sequel. Sorry for the bad review - I so wanted to like it
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Delphi makes a wondrous setting for this book, the second in the series.  It is known for its mysterious ancient ruins, history and myths but for a few days it is also known for murder.  Secrets, atmosphere and getting lost are all part and parcel of this novel.

Cassie Fortune, the UK delegate to the European Convention, is not a stranger to politics.  Her mission is to get the Greek financial minister to go to London to speak with the prime minister.  She is introduced to several dignitaries and an historian and prepares to give a presentation the following day.  Environmental lobbyists throng the area and the day after a body is found, and it is not exactly alive.  Her interpreter from the British Embassy, Helena Gatakis finds herself immersed in the crimes along with Cassie  Yes, crimes.  Plural.  Are they part of some sort of weird ritual?  Not only are the crimes tricky with a skeleton investigative staff but language is a barrier.  What are the native speakers really saying?  What secret does the Temple of Delphi hold?

This well-researched book is fascinating...I adore visiting Greek ruins which added another layer to my reading experience.  The author's notes at the back are excellent.  I love when authors write about personal experiences, research and inspirations.  

Mystery, Fiction and Women's Fiction readers alike ought to read this book with mystery elements knit together seamlessly with historic elements.

My sincere thank you to Claret Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this wonderful book...it really takes me back to wandering ruins in a nanosecond!
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Book Review for Oracle by Julie Anderson
Full review for this title will be posted at: @cattleboobooks on Instagram!
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Cassie Fortune is on a politically sensitive mission, this time to Delphi. This is Julie Anderson’s follow-up crime thriller after the excellent Plague, published last year. A splendid fast paced ‘who dunnit’ leaves the reader compelled with intriguing plot twists and the lives and demise of a group of characters at a European Conference Centre in the mountains. Many of these people have hidden stories and dubious motives and join, what appears to be, a high profile but rather dull Ministerial event. Trade relations, tax policy, environmental demonstrations are shaken by murder in the mountains, played out in the unforgiving November climate and isolation.

Cassie is, again, the unexpected sleuth asked to help. She is still reeling from the impact of the action in Plague and we learn more of her motives, her ambition, her fears and her pain as she niftily navigates the inter-personal and political issues that complicate her enquiries. Will these impact on her secret mission? 

And that itself would make for a great thriller. But Julie Anderson’s maturity as a writer is that the themes of this novel are as timeless and also as ‘in the moment’ as great contemporary fiction; the political context of Greece under the Colonels, the dangers still present today with Golden Dawn’s grip on the police, the lack of trust in the judicial system and the ‘behind the scenes’ influencing and everyday low level corruption that is the business of government. 

These themes resonate widely but the setting in Delphi draws the reader into a setting not only of history and politics but also mythology. Julie Anderson is deft and insightful in drawing parallels from Ancient Greece into the lives of those that visit and work near the Temples and the centre of Apollo’s world. 

This is an exceptionally well-crafted novel that makes the reader anguish at the wait for the final novel in this trilogy, Opera, due out next year. It also puts Delphi firmly on a ‘must see’ list of destinations, so glorious were Julie Anderson’s descriptions of the stunning Greek countryside. And the perfect setting for a truly European murder mystery.
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An enjoyable book. However,  I didn't enjoy it as much as Plague.  Anderson spends a lot of time describing the scenery, which is important, but tells the reader very little about the victims until the end.  I was hard to care who killed them.  It lacked the spark of the first book.  Maybe I've read too many novels in lockdown.  I do, however, look forward to the next one in the series.
This is an honest review of a complementary ARC.
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With the publication of Oracle, Julie Anderson has not only met but exceeded the high expectations created by the first Cassandra Fortune novel Plague, which came out last year. The author again combines her flair for characterisation, intricate and well crafted plot lines with fast paced action sequences to give us a thriller which is also a traditional who-dunnit.  

The novels setting transfers us from Plague’s seedy back room intrigues of Westminster to underworld of Thorney Island to Delphi, the mythical centre of Ancient Greece. While the presences of deities, mysticism and the other world seep into the storyline the author plays a beautiful line of allowing them to create an edge to the novel’s atmosphere without allowing the supernatural to over-shadow the plot. We are soon pulled back to the modern and recent Greek political scene in what is a really well thought out and intriguing plot line.

Perhaps it is down to the location but Julie’s wonderful description of the mountains, Delphi town and the historic sites really pulled me in and put me very much in mind of Anita Brookner’s description of the of the out-of-season Swiss Lake resort in Hotel du Lac. High praise perhaps but totally deserved in my opinion. The sense of isolation, danger and intrigue wrapped up in the cloak of ancient and recent history make this an absorbing and eminently enjoyable novel. 

Can’t wait for the third and final instalment in this series however this will all have to wait as I’m now planning a trip to Delphi. Be assured though, it won’t be for an conference on taxation policy!
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I don't know about everyone else but I read Julie Anderson's mysteries for the great female character. She's got to the best female character in literature now. Cassie is spikey yet diplomatic, smart but overthinks things and so gets them wrong, fearless to the point of being reckless, hungry but kind of broken. 
She's making me consider applying to the civil service. Whichever dept she's in, I want to be in it too.
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“At the top they saw why the motorcade had stopped. A large herd of goats was being driven down the mountain, bells clanging. The animals at the front had already crossed the road and were heading down to the valley, but the rest of the herd was following behind, walking and trotting across in front of the outriders and the convoy. A young boy and an older shepherd, carrying a staff, were chivvying them along.”

I think the above may be my favourite image from Julie Anderson’s Oracle, though what I love about it is not only the way in which, as the protagonist Cassie Fortune identifies it, “The Homeric meets the twenty-first century”, but more specifically the weaving of themes of politics which make connections across millennia – it is after all the motorcade of the Greek finance minister which is stopped by the goats. In Oracle questions of justice, corruption and the violence of power are a background to a gripping murder mystery.

I really enjoyed the prequel Plague, so am not surprised to have also loved Oracle. They are different, but it in the best way. Cassie’s story has moved on and we discover a new host of characters in more of a cosy mystery format rather than a thriller like Plague. In a way you don’t notice these changes, however, as they fit so well with the way Cassie changed over the course of Plague, and of course with the setting. 

That brings me to my final point(s): there are two things Anderson does particularly well which set her above the average crime writer, setting and female characters. I must say I am a sucker for good writing of setting (its why I love science fiction for example), but it does also mean I want that setting to be both vivid and meaningful and Anderson does both. The place-hood of her novels is always integral, it doesn’t take over, but it is an important background which informs and grounds the fast-paced plots she writes.

Onto the second – female characters: her’s are consistently complex. It was really great in Oracle to see more women in the wider cast of characters. Not that they are all nice people, many can be annoying, even pathetic but they do that in the way that real women are and male characters almost always are. The women Anderson writes about are ambitious, jaded, caring, contradictory and above all compelling, which is why I am looking forward to the next Cassie Fortune mystery Opera.
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I love anything Classical inspired. Add in a murder mystery - this book had me hooked. 

Oracle takes place in Delphi, Greece where the main character, Cassandra Fortune, has just arrived as a representative for the Prime Minister of the UK. She is set to give a presentation on tax policy, but almost as soon as she arrives, dead bodies start turning up and Cassandra is suddenly tasked with the responsibility of solving these murders. 

This book seamlessly combined Ancient Greek religion and mythology with modern-day Greek political issues. I was especially intrigued by the inclusion of the Erinyes, the goddesses or vengeance and retribution. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, going into it I was not aware that this was the sequel to another book. It did not explicitly state that in the synopsis or on the cover. The novel made some references to Cassie’s recent past that eventually clued me in that it must be a sequel. However, I was still able to read this as if it were a standalone without being too confused about Cassie’s backstory.

Thank you Netgalley, Claret Press, and the author for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinions.
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Julie Anderson’s Plague was gripping and original, and Oracle is a masterful sequel. Our doughty protagonist, Cassie Fortune, is transported from underground London to Delphi in Greece on what appears to be a straightforward diplomatic mission on behalf of the British Prime Minister. No sooner has Cassie arrived than she is plunged full-tilt into a murder mystery which gradually unveils a tangled web of misinformation and shady personal histories. This is not hot, travelogue Greece but a cold, thundery, November one, and the weather is used cleverly to heighten the tension as the drama unfolds.
The plot keeps us guessing right to the end as the intriguing cast of characters are handled with skill and care. The environs of Delphi, the Temple of Apollo and the Cultural Centre are expertly realised and the author’s obvious love of, and thirst for history and politics shines through in Oracle as they did in Plague.
Fearless, frightened and foolhardy, the brave and clever Cassie Fortune is rapidly becoming one of my favourite literary heroines
Julie Anderson did well to get this follow-up to Plague out so quickly. Apparently, there’s a third instalment in the offing. Can’t wait.
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"Oracle" was everything I hoped for and more - excellent characters, perfect setting, brilliant writing. It was so, so good to catch up with Cassie (the main character from "Plague") - and what a situation she finds herself in this time! This is a really fast read, and I was disappointed to come to the end. I can't wait for book 3 (please don't let it be the last!!).

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
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