When I started writing Deception I decided to write something about organised crime. It was about that time an article appeared on my Facebook news feed about the 10th anniversary of the FBI’s Art Crime team. After I read the article, did some further research, and the plot for Deception started to form.
The FBI’s Art Crime team was formed after substantial looting of Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad. At the time there wasn’t the specialised resource to deal with such crimes. The FBI’s Art Crime Team was formed shortly afterwards. The team comprises agents with training in art and cultural property and they have been responsible for the recovery of items totalling over $160 million in value. These items can include anything from fossils to letter, baseball cards, and textiles. I decided to focus on fine art.
To link the crime with my main characters specialisation in forensic botany, I then searched for a link and came up with dendrochronology – the study of tree rings.
Dendrochronology uses a historical sequence or chronology that was built up using many tree ring samples, setting a calibration curve that provides approximate dates back to 26,000 BP (BP=before present, where ‘present’ is 1 January 1950). Not as easy as counting rings! The gap between the rings showing times of climate differences and has a vital role in the dating process. The type of wood also plays a part. Oak can be dated fairly reliably, but wood from poplars cannot due their erratic growth rings.
When it comes to dating panel paintings, there is no sure way of telling how long a piece of wood may have been cured before being used. Because of this the determined date is usually given as ‘the earliest possible date’. While dendrochronology is a tool that can be used in forensics, in many cases it is not a reliable or possible method to date paintings. These factors made this the perfect botanical element for the story of Deception.
Organised crime, FBI investigation, and forensic botany. Plot sorted.
I love it when things fall into place!
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