Discoveries I Made While Researching The Peach Widow Background
Every story presents new research challenges when writing an historical mystery. For The Peach Widow I needed background on farm dogs, inheritance law, and natural poisons.
My first challenge was looking for background on inheritance law concerning a second wife and children by a previous marriage. After all the wonderful and informative responses from scholars about the time of Theodoric in Italy, I was frustratedto discover that Roman Law attorneys have no such enthusiasm for writers. Each one I approached did not respond.
When Murder Was Not A Crime
That drove me to more online research. I made a story-changing discovery as I dug deeper. Murder was not a crime.
That means a public crime. No police. No trial. Each family had to deal with the consequences once the murderer was revealed. That gave me a whole new layer for Argolicus as he makes his way discovering a killer. He also had to help the family come to terms with what they could and could not do for recompense.
The Big Farm Dog
The farm dog, Pup, plays a crucial role in the story. I read about Roman farm dogs and discovered the Pup most closely resembles the modern Dogo Argentino, a big dog breed that originated in Argentina.
To arrive at that conclusion I looked at a number of illustrations of both Greek and Roman dogs, read descriptions from the time, and then looked for a modern equivalent.
The Natural Poison
Another challenge was to find a natural poison source that would be readily available to a poor murderer who did not travel far. I needed a substance that grew locally. After researching natural poisons and plants that grow in southern Italy, I identified oleander. I could plant clues early on and bring the poison to light later in the story.
Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middoe Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.