Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Historical #PI #Mystery: THE GRAIN MERCHANT, An Argolicus Mystery Book 5 by Zara Altair

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An Argolicus Mystery Book 5


Civil unrest and murder. Can a Roman patrician solve the crime and feed the masses before they call for his blood?

Italy, 512 C.E. Argolicus would rather bury his nose in a book. But, when he leaves his peaceful country villa to open the long-shuttered townhome, family obligations demand he meet the wealthy bride his mother has arranged for him to marry. Though they decide not to wed, their friendship blossoms and Argolicus refuses to stand by when her family’s livelihood is threatened and her merchant father slain.

With the grain supply now dwindling and Argolicus fighting incompetent officials, he uncovers a long list of high-placed suspects and attracts the attention of a shadowy rival bent on his destruction. And as the citizenry grows increasingly desperate to put food on their plates, he’ll have to risk his reputation and life to hunt down the killer before violence erupts.

Can Argolicus save the starving populace before he takes a knife in his back?

The Grain Merchant is the engaging fifth book in the Argolicus Mysteries historical mystery series. Fans of Ruth Downie, Steven Saylor, and Lindsey Davis, jump forward in time to meet your new detective. If you like intelligent heroes, vivid Italian settings, and immersive ancient worlds, then you’ll love Zara Altair’s engrossing mystery.

Buy The Grain Merchant to explore the Late Roman streets today!


An Argolicus Mystery Book 5

Gaius Vitellius Argolicus

Character Interview

1. What is your name? Do you have a nickname? 

Gaius Vitellius Argolicus.  Argolicus.

2. Who is your best friend? What kinds of things do you do when you’re together?

My best friend is a man of The People, Ebrimuth. He is distantly related to my mother. As childhood friends, we hunted together with bows and arrows. Now he has my back when I get into scrapes.

More than a friend, my slave, Nikolaos, my tutor in childhood and now my secretary, goes with me everywhere. He shares his opinions freely and often spots things I miss. He keeps me fit with regular martial arts practice. Although Romans cannot carry weapons openly, he still keeps me agile with sword and dagger exercises.

3. If you have a family, how do you get along with them? If you don’t, are there people in your life that you consider family? How do you get along with them?

My father died when I was a teenager. My mother runs our family estate in the country. We get along well despite her constant questions about when I will marry. She is kind and loving, every bit the woman of another race my Roman father married.

4. Do you have a birthmark? Scars? Where are they? How did you get them?

My wounds are internal caused by sorrow. My father died when I was young man. I miss his wisdom. My wife and child both died in childbirth, leaving me with mixed feelings about marriage and missing the child I never had.

5. When you’re angry, what do you do? Where do you go? How do you deal with your anger?

I have flashes of anger. I get physical, pounding the table or throwing something against the wall. Nikolaos is my counsel when I am angry. He talks me down with his rational explanations and realistic assessment of human behavior.

6. A penguin walks up to you, right now, wearing a sombrero. What does he say to you and why is he here?

What is a penguin? Is it a barbarian honorary title? A large dangerous animal like a lion? What is a sombrero? Is it a type of armor? You need to tell me more.

7. What’s the one thing you’re afraid of losing?

My reputation as a trustworthy man.

8. What makes you laugh out loud?

The crazy things people do.

9. What’s your favorite food?

I have a bit of a sweet tooth. Gustum de Praecoquis. Clean small, hard apricots, remove the stone, place them in cool water, and arrange them in a pan. Grind pepper, dry mint, pour garum, add honey, raisin wine, wine, and vinegar. Pour the sauce on the apricots, add a bit of oil, and cook them at low heat. When they boil, thicken with starch. Dust with pepper and serve.

10. What’s the one thing you want out of life that you don’t think you can have? Why can’t you have it?

A peaceful life. Every time I think life is settled, something disrupts my current life and sends me on an uncomfortable journey. I want to settle back to enjoy life. But then, in my father’s footsteps,  I want to do service to the community and that involves politics. Politics is not peaceful.

About Author Zara Altair

Zara Altair writes traditional mysteries set in ancient Ostrogoth Italy. The Argolicus Mysteries is an ongoing series: The Roman Heir, The Used Virgin, The Vellum Scribe, The Peach Widow, The Grain Merchant. She is working on the next mystery The Olive Wife.

A mystery fan and history buff since childhood, she fell in love with Italy in one brief visit and keeps returning. She lives near Portland, Oregon.


Links to Zara’s websites, blogs, books, #ad etc.:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3Q8eGwU

Find all the places to purchase The Grain Merchant on my website in either ebook or print format.


Contact: zara@zaraaltair.com


Special Giveaway: Zara will give away an ebook copy of THE GRAIN MERCHANT to one lucky reader who comments on her Karen’s Killer Book Bench blog. Good luck!

Happy Reading!


Thanks, Zara, for sharing your book with us!

Don’t miss the chance to read this book!



4 thoughts on “Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Historical #PI #Mystery: THE GRAIN MERCHANT, An Argolicus Mystery Book 5 by Zara Altair”

  1. Good morning, Zara, and welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench. I’m intrigued by the historical time and location of your book. I was fascinated by Roman history in college and don’t see many fictional books that take place there. Your book premise is intriguing! Thanks for sharing it with us today!

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