Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Great Game Murders

Plotting The Novel by Willliam Shepard
The Great Game Murders is the fifth in my series of diplomatic mysteries, which began with “Vintage Murder,” which takes place in Bordeaux. “Murder On The Danube” follows protagonist Robbie Cutler to the American Embassy in Budapest, and in “Murder In Dordogne,” Robbie and his bride are on their honeymoon in the scenic Dordogne region of France – where murder interrupts their honeymoon! \

In these three novels, the main characters – protagonist Robbie Cutler (a career diplomat), his wife Sylvie, and particularly his Great Uncle Seth Cutler, a nationally revered man who has access to the highest intelligence levels – become familiar to readers, against a background of American Embassy assignments.

In The Saladin Affair Murders,” however, I decided to shift gears plot wise. One of the interesting assignments that I had in the Department of State was the Executive Secretariat, he staffing office for the Secretary. In that office, I helped plan overseas trips for the Secretary, and twice went along as a staffer for lengthy overseas trips, to Europe (with a focus on NATO) with Secretary Dean Rusk, and then, around the world, an eighteen day trip for Secretary William Rogers). “The Saladin Affair Murders,” the fourth novel, parallels my European trip, while “The Great Game Murders” takes as its inspiration the longer trip with Secretary Rogers.

I decided that this novel would take the Secretary to Southeast Asia, Australia, India, China, and Afghanistan. The opportunities are therefore to introduce the reader to several fascinating regions, and for a unifying device, the current worries over China’s geographic pretensions in the South China Sea form a unifying thread.

So far, so good. But I wanted to continue the threat from Al Qaeda terrorist group that had begun with “The Saladin Affair Murders.” Enter a suave Middle Eastern businessman, with an unexpected ear for opera, who plots to murder the Secretary of State at the world renowned Sydney Opera House.
But could he do this without any assistance? Most terrorists require some sort of backup. The nightmare that I introduce here is a link between Al Qaeda and a world power – a possibility that has the Secretary of State making an unscheduled and secret stop in Beijing, China, to run down the possibility of the terrorist group’s arranging a link with Beijing.
Two further plot twists sharpen the narrative for today’s reader. It turns out that cyberwarfare is far advanced for the nation’s enemies – but could the intelligence leaks to Al Qaeda be coming from Robbie Cutler’s own computer?
Several reviewers have liked best the last several chapters. Robbie has decided to finish his assignment with the Secretary of State, and take a temporary duty assignment in Afghanistan. This takes Robbie out of fiction, and into the real world actually faced by hundreds of Foreign Service Officers. His assignment is to a remote and highly dangerous province – and his capture by the enemy is only foiled by Uncle Seth Cutler by the narrowest of margins. Looking back on the experience after his return home, Robbie remembers the well that he has provided for a remote village near the border with Pakistan. It seems a more satisfying accomplishment than many more glamorous diplomatic episodes in his career.
The title, The Great Game Murders, is a reflection of  The Great Game, the rivalry between Great Britain and Czarist Russia in the nineteenth century in Central Asia. Some of the same territory is involved here, with new rival forces at work. And the nightmare posed by this novel remains – what if Al Qaeda could form a linkage with a great power?
Meanwhile, Robbie, Sylvie, and their infant daughter Katherine will soon be moving to Cyprus, the lovely island where Middle Eastern cross currents will assure that Robbie has an interesting assignment to the American Embassy in Nicosia!

William Shepard felt that there was something missing in crime novels. And that was the world of diplomacy, a real world for all its glamour. He invites readers to "Come into that world and solve a crime or two, while you explore with me the Embassy life, its risks and rewards, and yes, its occasional murders! His novels include include Vintage MurderMurder On The Danube, and Murder In Dordogne. Also, Diplomatic Tales, a memoir of life at American Embassies, is also available. For those who want to know more about enjoying fine wines, Shepard's Guide to Mastering French Wines is a reliable and entertaining guide to the regions and wines of France.

Learn more about William S. Shepard at: 

1 comment:

Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome back to Mysterious Writers, Willliam. Your book sounds fascinating.