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Mystery Mastermind Oscar de Muriel: 

Updated: Mar 10


Welcome, dear readers, to an exciting rendezvous with the mastermind behind the captivating tales of mystery and intrigue, Oscar de Muriel. Known for his spellbinding Frey and McGray series, Oscar has transported readers to the gritty streets of 19th-century Edinburgh. Today, we have the privilege of delving into the mind of this talented author to uncover the secrets behind his  success.

Q1: Your Historical Playground:

Your novels are a captivating journey back in time to the late 1800s. What drew you to set your stories in this historical period, and how do you ensure an authentic portrayal of the era?

'O': Victorian times were a very conscious decision (believe it or not, for a good while I debated whether to set it in Tudor times or in the 1930s!). But the end of the 19 th century was the era when superstition and rational thought were equally strong in people’s minds. Set the book a few decades earlier and they’d have burned McGray’s sister; a few decades later and McGray would have been the one sent to an asylum!

Q2: The Dynamic Duo:

Frey and McGray make for a compelling detective duo. Can you share a bit about the inspiration behind these characters and the dynamics you wanted to explore between them throughout the series?

'O': I remember, years before Frey & McGray, one of my friends telling me that my books were too “vanilla” and that I should include more “drama and mutilation”. So I thought that one of my two detectives would be mutilated in some way. Then again, I needed him to be able to chase murderers and have fights, so I went for a missing finger, and then all the story of how he lost it snowballed from there.

Frey just came out really naturally, and his way to tell the story in first person too. Then, as soon as my friends began reading my drafts, they all said “OMG, you’re JUST like Frey!”. It made sense.

Q3: The Art of Mystery:

Crafting mysteries is no small feat. How do you go about weaving intricate plots, and do you often find the characters leading the story or the other way around?

I always start with the “answer” to the “crime”. Who, when, how and (especially) why. Once I have that clear in my head I can start planning which clues to drop here and there along the plot. The good thing of coming back to the same characters is that you know what they’d do and wouldn’t do. You know their talents and weaknesses and it becomes easier to weave that into the plot. Having said that, it’s more fun to give them challenges and only occasionally a wee bit of an advantage.

Q4: Scotland as a Character:

Edinburgh almost becomes a character in itself in your books. How does the city's history and atmosphere influence your storytelling, and what challenges and joys come with portraying a specific location in a historical context?

'O': I loved Edinburgh well before I started writing the series, and it was literally minutes after I got the idea that I decided it would be set there. It just has the right atmosphere and I don’t ever get tired of going back for “research”. It really helps that the city has changed very little through the centuries, and when I go I feel a true connection with my characters and stories. There were bits I always wanted to include, like Mary King’s Close and Arthur’s Seat (for the latter I had to wait for seven books!).

Q5: Writing Rituals:

Every writer has their unique approach to the craft. Can you share some of your writing rituals or habits that help you get into the zone and bring these gripping tales to life?

'O': I don’t usually have rituals. When I have a deadline I try to write 9 to 5 (although it’s more like 10 to 12…). I used to write with music in the background and I would make “soundtracks” for all my books, but as I get (ehem) older I can’t focus if I hear any lyrics in the background. For my Mexican nuns mysteries (hopefully available in English one day!) I HAD to have a cup of hot chocolate (the convents were famous for their chocolate and sweets) before I started writing.

Q6: The Evolution of Oscar de Muriel:

As you've progressed through the Frey and McGray series, how do you feel your writing style and storytelling have evolved? Are there aspects you consciously worked on or surprises that emerged naturally?

'O': I still struggle with prepositions! I think the most important thing I learned as the series progressed was to stop trying to shock or impress with language. Sometimes the facts you are narrating are strong enough and they don’t need more embellishment, just to be told accurately. That was particularly true for the seventh Frey & McGray.

Q7: Inspirations Beyond the Pages:

What outside influences, whether books, movies, or real-life events, have shaped your writing and the themes explored in your novels?

'O': I always recommend Jurassic Park. That was the book that made me want to become a writer, and if you read the prologue (and my prologues) you’ll definitely see the influence. That book also got me interested in science and chemistry, which always feature heavily in my plots. I also love the Shardlake books by CJ Sansom (another influence) and Isaac Asimov wrote some VERY witty mysteries.

Q8: A Glimpse into the Future:

Can you offer any hints or teasers about what readers can expect in your upcoming works? Are there new projects or genres you're eager to explore?

'O': I’m currently working on a spy thriller featuring Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and (Yes!) Wallis Simpson, just at the brink of WWII. I’ve spent more than two years doing the research, so it better be good! That will most likely be the next thing I’ll publish. After that I have an idea for a fantasy series (can’t give you more details on that one, I’m afraid!) and a present day thriller involving a lot of climate

Oscar de Muriel

Author Oscar de Muriel

One of Oscar's favourite cover versions of 'The Strings of Murder' book one in the Frey & McGray series.

Japanese book  cover version of Frey and McGray

I would like to thank Oscar for his time and for giving us a peek into his writing processes. If you'd like to find out more about Oscar and his books, click on his picture and visit his website!

The Frey & McGray mysteries remain one of my all-time favourite series of books. I have a special fondness for these stories as they kept me company throughout chemo and cancer treatments during the worst of the Covid pandemic. Having met Oscar a couple of times now, I can safely say that he is a genuinely lovely person with a real passion for his craft, the quality of which shines through in his words on the pages. The world of Frey & McGray is one I am always excited to revisit and I'm more than happy to recommend.

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