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Research Discoveries for The Peach Widow

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

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