Gardening Can Be Murder

How Poisonous Poppies, Sinister Shovels, and Grim Gardens Have Inspired Mystery Writers

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Pub Date 05 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 05 Sep 2023

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Description

This fun, engrossing book takes a look at the surprising influence that gardens and gardening have had on mystery novels and their authors.

With their deadly plants, razor-sharp shears, shady corners, and ready-made burial sites, gardens make an ideal scene for the perfect murder. But the outsize influence that gardens and gardening have had on the mystery genre has been underappreciated. Now, Marta McDowell, a writer and gardener with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, illuminates the many ways in which our greatest mystery writers, from Edgar Allen Poe to authors on today’s bestseller lists, have found inspiration in the sinister side of gardens.

From the cozy to the hardboiled, the literary to the pulp, and the classic to the contemporary, Gardening Can Be Murder is the first book to explore the mystery genre’s many surprising horticultural connections. Meet plant-obsessed detectives and spooky groundskeeper suspects, witness toxic teas served in foul play, and tour the gardens—both real and imagined—that have been the settings for fiction’s ghastliest misdeeds. A New York Times bestselling author herself, McDowell also introduces us to some of today’s top writers who consider gardening integral to their craft, assuring that horticultural themes will remain a staple of the genre for countless twisting plots to come.  

“This book is dangerous. A veritable cornucopia of crime fiction and gardening lore, it faces the reader with multiple temptations—books to seek out, plants to obtain, garden tours to book.” —Vicki Lane, author of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries

This fun, engrossing book takes a look at the surprising influence that gardens and gardening have had on mystery novels and their authors.

With their deadly plants, razor-sharp shears, shady...


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ISBN 9781643261126
PRICE $29.00 (USD)
PAGES 216

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Average rating from 72 members


Featured Reviews

A great book for mystery and garden lovers! It dives into various facets of mysteries that are all about plants. At first, I thought this might just be about poisons, but the author covers detectives who love gardening, settings that involves gardens, motives, and more! A fun book (plus it's full of essentially book recommendations)!

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Pros: As someone who loves both plants and murder mysteries, I thought this book was so much fun and informative! This book examines plants as a clue or the weapon (poison), gardens as the setting, gardens and plants as metaphors, gardening tools as weapons, and the gardens of authors. Although the author does discuss the plots of murder mysteries, she is very careful not to spoil the books for readers who have not (yet) read them. As I read, I added books and authors to my to-read list and was thrilled to find a list of books at the end!

Cons: This was a very Anglo-centric book in the books and authors it featured. I would have loved to see more diversity, and perhaps this is an opportunity for a follow up book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Timber Press for the opportunity to read this book.

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As a fan of murder mysteries and an avid gardener, I found this book fascinating. From the deadly plants themselves to the way clever authors have figured a way for their fiendish villains to administer them to their unsuspecting prey, I was hooked.

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As a gardener, I loved Gardening Can Be Murder (even though mysteries are not a preferred genre).

Gardening Can Be Murder describes garden topics with many (MANY) books that span decades. A very nice book list at the back (so that you don't need to worry about trying to capture all the books to add to your TBR (to be read) list.

Not a very long book and it contains many (beautiful) illustrations. I found it "just right".

My favorite part of the book was where the author describes authors gardens.

Once again, I thank NetGalley for introducing me to a "new to me" author/Marta McDowell. Thank you to NetGalley, Marta McDowell and Timber Press the publisher for providing the opportunity for me to review the advance read copy of Gardening Can Be Murder in exchange for an honest review. Publication date is 12 Sep 2023.

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Gardening Can Be Murder: How Poisonous Poppies, Sinister Shovels, and Grim Gardens Have Inspired Mystery Writers. What delightful title. Myself, I’m a notorious and prolific murderer of plants, but I love a good mystery and I love the aesthetic of gardens and greenery. While this book is probably most interesting to gardening enthusiasts it’s really fun learning about the history of how gardens play a roll and have inspired mystery writers and their stories.

I loved that not only was it an interesting read but that it also gave me more to look forward to because I came away with a list of books to check out and also some pretty amazing gardens I would love to check out in person one day. The illustrations by Yolanda V. Fundora were also a total mood. They really complimented the content of the book. This is a short but slow paced relaxing read, perfect for a rainy day with a hot cup of herbal tea.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a rather engaging book that linked the use of gardening aspects within mystery books. The author goes in depth with detailing the use of poisons. The use of gardens as a location for the murder/mystery is also featured. I loved the illustrations that appeared between the chapters. This is very well thought out book. The author has obviously put in much research in writing this book. Many of the books mentioned were older books; I would have liked to have seen more modern books included.

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I absolutely loved reading this book. I was completely drawn into the topic and could not stop reading it.

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Although this isn't my typical read, I really enjoyed this book. I've always been fascinated by deadly and poisonous plants so I figured this would be right up my alley. It explores the ways that authors incorporate plants and gardens into stories, during the present time and way back when. Whether they are used as plot points, like a toxic plant used to commit a crime, or part of a character's backstory, like the gardening hobby of a character investigating a crime. Or even as the scene of a crime, with a victim dying among flowers and bushes or a forest of trees. I think people take lovely settings like these for granted and the author has so many examples of stories with a horticultural twist.

Like SO many examples under every topic. There are numerous stories referenced that I've never heard of, casually lumped in with some of the most famous stories out there. I was excited when I saw the description of "The Turn of the Key" by Ruth Ware, one of my favorite contemporary authors. A poisonous garden figures heavily in that story, by the way, and is part of why I enjoyed that book. The chapter on the most common poisonous plants contains a great summary of each plant, which part of it is poisonous, and which books they feature in. That's one of the best aspects about this book, that it refers to so many other stories that you may be interested in, not just plants.

Now, I'm sure this book will draw comparisons to "Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities." But it doesn't compete with that book; rather, it's the perfect compliment. If you loved that one, you will love this one. And if you know someone who loves to garden but doesn't read, this book would be the perfect gift to get them reading more. And then they're on their way to becoming a murder mystery addict like so many of us - works for me!

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Thank you Netgalley for the advance reader copy of Gardening Can Be Murder by Martha McDowell in exchange for an honest review. This book does a wonderful, in depth analysis of how the garden has influenced, contributed and become a strong structure of mystery writing.

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As an avid gardener, Gardening Can Be Murder is right up my alley, and don't let the title fool you... Marta McDowell, our author, isn't teaching readers how to commit crimes with plants, but instead, she's highlighting the many writers and poets throughout the centuries who've tasked their fictional murderers with the knowledge to poison and penetrate their victims with ordinary garden plants. From Agatha Christie to Arthur Conan Doyle, so many of the greats in mystery fiction have done their research when it comes to the best flowers and grasses to add to a deadly tincture.

Each chapter walks readers through the vast and diverse world of botany and agricultural homicide. Gardening Can be Murder is set to publish on September 12, 2023, and I am so thankful to Timber Press for sending me an excellent advanced reader's copy.

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I’m unreasonably excited about Marta McDowell’s “Gardening Can Be Murder” — How many should I buy for Christmas presents? How do I convince my botanical book clubs (The Secret Garden Book Club at Ashton Gardens and Read Between the Spines of The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix) to choose this as a selection? Will I be babbling to my fellow horticultural volunteers at the university about “oh, look! a “Helleborus niger” with white flowers” but we gardeners know that niger means black and that here “black” is about the poisonous tuber?

Obviously this is my perfect book, but Marta McDowell is also the queen of lacing literature with landscaping. I knew her work when my aforementioned book club chose her “Unearthing the Secret Garden” about Francis Hodgson Burnett’s plant inspirations. She has also written books about the gardens of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickinson, and the White House. Here she has gathered a wide compendium of authors, mystery books involving plants, wicked gardens, and botanical murder means (we gardeners can stab you with pruners, take off fingers with loppers, choke you with weed killer, or strangle you with floral wire, and then we have alibi shovels to bury you and let you become fertilizer).

The research that Ms.McDowell did is absolutely amazing and incredibly comprehensive. She could write separate books about Agatha Christie and Miss Marple (their trendy Japanese gardens of the early 1910s and the great exhibitions Ms. Christie might have attended) or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes’s experiments with plant poisons. I think she must have been collecting literary landscaping stories for years. There are so many gardening mysteries I’ve missed, but thanks to the author, I’ve added them to my to-be-read list.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars! This book is more than just for gardeners, too. I recalled that my love of mystery novels started as a teenager with Jane Marple and I was quietly absorbing facts like white-flowering silver fleece vine was a menace. Even non-gardeners have probably read enough about jimson weed/angel’s trumpet (an entire season of the cable series, “The Sinner” was based on a murderous child brewing tea from that plant) to know that it’s appearance in a story might be a clue.

Thank you to Timber Press and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Fabulously fun! Wonderful, accessible read. Enlightening and challenging. Have many readers to recommend this to due to the tone balanced between cheeky and academic . Love it for gardeners, mystery lovers, and writers alike.

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As a gardener myself, this book took me on a deep dive into not only my own garden but those around the world. I came away with a new record for my tbr and a new appreciation for the innocent looking ornamental plants that have been used as accomplices throughout the history of murder mysteries. If you like books about books, gardening tips, and a look at the motifs that examine good versus evil, this may be the book for you!

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Gardening Can Be Murder by Marta McDowell is a unique exploration of the connection between gardens and the mystery genre. McDowell, an experienced gardener and writer, delves into the many ways gardens have inspired mystery writers throughout history. From cozy mysteries to hardboiled detective novels, McDowell covers it all.

The book is organized in a way that is easy to follow, with chapters dedicated to specific themes such as poisonous plants, spooky groundskeepers, and garden settings. McDowell does an excellent job of including a variety of examples from classic literature to contemporary bestsellers, as well as real-life garden crimes.

The writing is engaging and informative, making the book accessible to both gardening enthusiasts and mystery fans alike. McDowell's own love of both gardening and the mystery genre is evident throughout the book, adding a personal touch to the exploration.

Overall, Gardening Can Be Murder is a fascinating and entertaining read that sheds light on a unique aspect of the mystery genre. McDowell's passion and knowledge make this book a must-read for anyone interested in gardening, mysteries, or the intersection between the two.

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Marta McDowell's books are always engaging and well written. Her previous books have been biographies so this one takes a detour, exploring mystery novels that feature some aspect of gardening whether it relates to the plot, how the crime is committed or how it is solved. I have to confess that I found myself skimming some of it but I think that was because I am very familiar with the topic. I did discover some titles and authors that were unfamiliar.

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Disclosure: An ebook was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review which I willingly provide below.

Books about books are one of my favorite things to read, which is why I chose to review this non-fiction book. "Gardening Can be Murder" explores the relationship between gardening and mystery novels, providing information, lore, and literary connections that are perfect for mystery readers.

McDowell generously shares her extensive knowledge of gardening, breaking down each facet before providing a book excerpt to illustrate that point. After reading this book, I have added so many books to my TBR list. This book covers everything from gardening detectives to poisonous plants. Each chapter explores the different components of a great mystery story: detective, setting, motive, means, clues, and suspects.

Writers commonly find inspiration in their daily lives, so this book would not be complete without sharing the gardening lives of our favorite mystery authors. For instance, I had no idea that Arthur Conan Doyle studied medicine and botany before writing Sherlock Holmes, or that Rex Stout, the author of the Nero Wolfe mysteries, had grown 192 varieties of irises.

This book deserves a place on any mystery reader's shelf, and once it is published, it will find a home on mine.

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Who knew gardening can be so deadly! This is an interesting and unique read, highlighting all the ways gardening has been used in various mysteries from Shakespeare and Agatha Christie to M.C. Beaton and Ruth Ware, using popular garden crime scenes, poisonous plants and flowers, and various gardening tools to create murderous crimes. Lots of fun.

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This certainly isn't your everyday read but it's interesting nonetheless. This book takes you on a wild journey learning about poisonous plants and the use of such beautiful instruments of destruction in stories. Bookworms, Plant and/or Gardening enthusiasts will surely enjoy this book.

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A love letter to horticulture, gardening, and the authors that both apply the concept in everyday life as well as in their books.

I absolutely loved this book and the way it’s sections were broken down as well as the information that was contained. Talk about an interesting, but still informative, read! The author has a way of writing that keeps the reader engaged while still giving the, a wealth of information, and that is a gift that I have found to be very rare these days. Can’t wait to get my hands on a hard copy and start recommending to anyone interested in the topics!

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I love a good murder mystery and this focuses on the means of the murder, getting into the details on who used what and how it was cultivated. This was a fascinating look at different series where poison is used as well as what the gardens looked like. A well-researched reference book on gardens and their deadly inhabitants. Highly recommended for those wanting a little more detail on what can be used and where to find them in our favorite reads.

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This is a really great read for gardening lovers. I enjoyed it and can think of a few friends to recommend this title to. Love the cover art as well! I hope to buy a physical copy at the publish date.

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First, a big thank you to NetGalley and Timber Press for the opportunity to read this book.


As a longtime lover of murder mysteries and the poison trope, how could I not immediately be drawn to a title like "Gardening Can Be Murder: How Poisonous Poppies, Sinister Shovels, and Grim Gardens Have Inspired Mystery Writers"?

This book is so much more than poison and is everything from a reference guide to an excellent way to learn more about some of our favorite writers and characters. Each chapter looks over different aspects of the world of mystery novels. From Nero Wolfe's obsession with orchids to a description of foxglove and its life as a plant that can save or kill, each page is a glimpse into the depth of plotting.

It is so fitting in the final pages to use Margaret Atwood's quote about gardening and gardeners not being rational. How perfect to combine the world of gardening and murder in this book.

While a short book, it can feel quite dense at times. After all, there is so much packed in a book with fewer pages than many of the novels it references. It can feel at times that you are reading a textbook which is the only real downfall. I love the references and reading lists in the back of the book. There are so many sources and a perfect way to bring every reader to their next mystery!

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As someone who loves to garden and read a mystery novel, this book represented two of my major interests. It goes into depth about different plants that have inspired mystery authors to write stories over time. It was well researched and provided a reader with a lot of new information without over complicating it. The illustrations included in the book were also a nice touch! Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book.

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I loved this book, and the drawings interspersed throughout the book are delightful. The book list in the back is an excellent idea and I have a lot of books to suggest for my book clubs. Thank you Netgally for providing this book to me. It's a fun, unexpected, and thoroughly enjoyable book for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries, gardening, or just wants a light-hearted fun read.

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I loved this book!! I knew that there were alot of poisonous plants and that alot of medicines are also made with them. But this book went so far and I absolutely loved this!! I will be keeping this. Hum. Maybe a dangerous garden one day?!
I just reviewed Gardening Can Be Murder by Marta McDowell. #GardeningCanBeMurder #NetGalley
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If you love mysteries and gardening and have some favorite mystery writers, this book is for you. Full of fascinating facts and how plants tie into many mystery stories, this was a fun insightful book for lovers of mystery.

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Gardening Can Be Murder is an informative and enjoyable listing of mystery books that also include a gardening component.. For each title listed, an enticing summery is provided. In addition, biographies of some of the authors are provided. At the conclusion, a complete listing of the books summarized in the text is provided. My TBR has just doubled!

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For gardening enthusiasts and mystery lovers alike, this book covers a very specific and fascinating field. The author is a gardener herself so she sees details that laypeople miss. Analyzing plants and gardens as settings, motive and clues for murder, this volume includes beautiful illustrations and some photographs of authors who used these features in their mysteries. From older writers to current ones, their lives and some of their books are explored in a fun and informative way. As a big Agatha Christie fan, I loved the parts that discuss her use of plants and gardens, including the difference between Miss Marple’s green thumb and Poirot’s complete ignorance of the subject. This is a fresh look into my favorite genre.
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#Timber Press!

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Marta has pieced together a charming reference book that sites mystery novels that use various plants and poisons for their murders. Sections are organized by plant and the content is comprehensive and clever. I will be interviewing Marta for my podcast, and I'm excited to dive into discussing this book. As a former librarian, I recommend this for libraries. Writers and mystery fans alike will get a lot from this book.

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Gardening Can Be Murder is a fascinating analysis of the ways in which horticulture has featured in, influenced, and inspired the Crime Fiction genre over the past 150 or so years.
“Writers write what they know, and there are many writer-gardeners. In their gardens, or gardens they research, they discover setting, motive, means, and clue. Gardening offers occupations or avocations for their detectives, suspects, and criminals. The skill of the author transforms the horticultural into the mysterious.“

Meticulously researched by an author who is both a writer and a gardener, her passion for both topics shines through. She starts with examples of detectives who garden, like Nero Wolfe and Miss Marple. Then she examines how gardens feature as murders scenes, how the lust for particular plants can be the prime motive for killing, and how horticultural wisdom can be used to source a range of poisons or gardening tools be wielded as weapons. Conversely, the detective’s knowledge of plants may also help them spot clues or untruths - I liked the explanation of the origin of the term “red herring”. Assiduously avoiding spoilers, McDowell mentions just enough about the selected works to pique one’s interest.
Finally she looks at gardeners themselves and how they can appear as victim or suspect, and the most famous writer-gardeners, including of course the most famous Crime writer of them all, Agatha Christie, and a tantalising description of her house near Torquay, Greenway.

The illustrations - mostly very stylised black and white drawings - are gorgeous and would make awesome T-shirts if the author wanted to branch out (see what I did there? 🤣) into selling merchandise. The cover image is also suitably sinister and would be a good reason to buy this in hardback if available. The list of books referenced, epigraph source list, and index at the end are a comprehensive tally of the range of writers covered in the book - from The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, published in 1868, to A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons, by Kate Khavari in 2022.
While I read a lot of mystery & crime, I had only heard of a minority of the authors mentioned, and have read even fewer, but they span the breadth of the genre, from hard-boiled to cozy, and historical to psychological. Most crime fans will find plenty of inspiration to grow their TBRs!

Unfortunately this was only available to read through the NetGalley app, so I won’t be able to keep it for future reference once it archives. Overall this would be of interest to anyone who loves gardening - whether that be watering a pot plant or tending multiple acres - and reading.
Thanks to NetGalley and Timber Press for the ARC. I am posting this honest review voluntarily.
Gardening Can Be Murder is published on September 5th.

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I’m fascinated by poisonous plants because they’re usually gorgeous, like my beloved datura
This an informative book that made me learn more and discover new areas of knowledge
Recommended if you live plants or are a classic mystery fan
Highly recommended
Many thanks to the publisher, all opinions are mine

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My overall rating would be 3 because I found the different parts in the book a bit siloed, not really seamlessly intertwined, but I'm giving Gardening Can Be Murder 4 stars for the author's extensive and meticulous research and for the interesting information that she shares with us throughout the book. You will learn a lot about how gardening is related, in many ways, to thrillers and mystery literature. The narrative style is not always easy to follow especially if, like me, you're not a native speaker but it was a great way to learn and widen my lexical knowledge at the same time.

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“Gardening Can Be Murder” by Marta McDowell appealed as I am a lover of both murder mysteries and gardening and especially books those two together! There is something in knowing that the correct amount of a specific plant crushed is deadly, all that power cheerfully lurking in a herbaceous border!

The book is made up of sections, each focusing on a different angle of murderous gardens including detectives who garden; garden crime scenes; gardening as a motive in a plot; a gardening element as a murder weapon; gardening clues; gardeners as suspects and mystery writers and their gardens!

With a decidedly tongue-in-cheek tone, Marta McDowell covers a broad range of books, from old to new, well-known to rare, and all the ones in between. With a synopsis of each book referenced, it is a great resource for finding new books and authors!

Whilst I didn’t gain huge insights, I enjoyed the steady supply of interesting tidbits about stories with a gardening bend and how it can be used in literature. All in all, an enjoyable read! It is a four out of five on the enJOYment scale.

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This nonfiction book takes a look at gardening as a whole and how it relates to murder mysteries. Marta covers poisonous plants, plants and gardening as motives, authors who have their own gardens, and various tools used in gardening (and murder) that can be found throughout the mystery genre throughout the years. Marta does a great job laying out and explaining each section and finds ways to connect each idea wonderfully. I really enjoyed reading and learning from this!

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This book takes a look at how dangerous and real garden plants are used in fictional murders. It was interesting to read how wide of a literary reach this murder method has. It is a great read for gardeners who are mystery fans.

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A surprisingly delightful read, considering the subject matter is murder. I’m always hesitant to read nonfiction because memories from uni have left me imagining dry and impossibly small text. But fear not! Marta McDowell’s writing has such wit, her passion for gardening infectious. I snickered over lines detailing a gardener’s homicidal intent towards slugs. There are also illustrations scattered throughout the book that add a wonderfully whimsical touch.

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Nestled within the pages of Gardening Can Be Murder: How Poisonous Poppies, Sinister Shovels, and Grim Gardens Have Inspired Mystery Writers by Martha McDowell lies a captivating exploration that intertwines the allure of gardens with the appeal of mystery. As someone who might be more inclined to commit ‘planticide’ than nurture a thriving garden, I found myself ensnared by the relatable title and the enchanting premise that this book presents. So, whether you’re a green-thumbed horticultural virtuoso or a mere enthusiast, this book promises to transport you to a world where sinister secrets are buried amidst the petals and leaves.

Gardening Can Be Murder by Martha McDowell

Gardening Can Be Murder masterfully grafts together two seemingly disparate worlds — the serenity of gardens and the gripping intrigue of mystery novels. This unlikely pairing, expertly curated by Marta McDowell, offers readers a unique lens through which to view both. McDowell’s deft penmanship charts a journey into the historical tapestry where gardens have played a pivotal role in inspiring mystery writers and their tantalizing narratives.

It’s not just the concept that thrills; it’s the execution that truly flourishes. The wonderful illustrations by Yolanda V. Fundora that punctuate the chapters are like dewdrops on petals – they add a layer of elegance and visual splendor that resonates harmoniously with the book’s essence. The slow-paced rhythm of the book mirrors the gentle pace of tending to a garden, making it a perfect companion for a rainy afternoon accompanied by the soothing companionship of herbal tea.

One of the most delightful aspects of Gardening Can Be Murder is how it becomes a garden of literary recommendations, where each chapter unfurls like a new varietal waiting to be explored. McDowell deftly introduces a catalog of books that embody the intricate dance between gardens and mysteries. As I turned each page, I felt like a curious visitor wandering through an expansive garden, discovering hidden nooks of stories waiting to be unraveled.

The Perfect Gift for Gardeners and Readers

While the book pays homage to classic literature where the whispers of poison-laden petals and ominous topiaries have stirred the imagination of generations, it also unearths contemporary gems that seamlessly weave modern garden elements into their tales. The chapter on poisonous plants serves as both a guide and a warning, revealing the eerie beauty of these botanical villains and their literary exploits.

McDowell’s prowess in research is obvious, her dedication evident in the seamless transitions between the historical origins of this narrative tradition and the modern renditions that keep it alive. She shines a light on the intimate relationship between authors and their gardens, from Agatha Christie’s Japanese garden musings to Sherlock Holmes’ scientific flirtations with poisonous flora.

As I delved into the rich soil of this book, I found myself echoing the sentiment of the reader who confessed, “How many should I buy for Christmas presents?” This is indeed the ideal gift for bibliophiles who cultivate gardens and gardens that cultivate mysteries. Just as a well-tended garden brings forth vibrant blossoms, Gardening Can Be Murder yields an abundance of literary blooms, each one waiting to be plucked and cherished.

Final Thoughts

In a world where narratives are often compartmentalized, McDowell’s creation is a harmonious fusion — a tale of two worlds converging to create something wholly enchanting. So, whether you possess a green thumb or a penchant for puzzling mysteries, Gardening Can Be Murder promises a reading experience that is as exciting as the title suggests, leaving you with a flourishing garden of books to explore and a newfound appreciation for the mysteries that lurk amid the leaves.

Gardening Can Be Murder is set to Publish September 13, 2023!

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At the risk at being put on a watchlist somewhere I requested this book as I find natural poisons fascinating and I would love to visit The Alnwick Garden. No none needs to worry though I have a black thumb and can’t grow anything. I also love looking the influence that gardens and gardening have had on mystery novels and their authors call me odd, but it was a cosy read.

It is clear Marta has researched authors, mystery books involving plants and botanical murders. Marta is a writer and a keen gardener its wonderful seeing her passion for both subjects. This book highlights the fact that writers commonly find inspiration in their daily lives. Marta points out how many writers have used gardening and their knowledge to write sinister mystery novels.

Slight spoiler dear Reader I had no idea that Arthur Conan Doyle studied medicine and botany. I enjoyed the books set up and enjoyed how each chapter looks over different aspects of the world of mystery novels. At no point did the book feel overwhelming or information dumpy and was a cosy informative read.

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Aptly titled Gardening Can Be Murder by Marta McDowell is a spectacularly researched and gorgeously-written book which seemed custom designed for those of us who are passionate gardeners and rabid murder mystery readers. The illustrations are beautiful, fresh and laden with meaning.

I am grateful to travel extensively and visit gardens in every country/region I'm in whether an arboretum, botanic or cottage garden or literary-themed garden. Toxic gardens are equally fascinating. Whether loved by authors or fictional characters, gardens can be murder scenes or boast nooks and crannies for hidden letters or bodies, toxic plants themselves can be used as the murder weapon and can also cause irritation when handled so beware of swarthy thugs brandishing knives on a garden tour who are sporting murderous rashes. Gardens can be settings for theatre and fetes and gardening tools can be used as sharp (or blunt) objects. Though usually wonderful, gardens in books can belie nefarious goings-on.

Whether you enjoy digging into murder mysteries or the soil (or both!), this fun, quirky, charming and informative book could easily be your wheelhouse. Never a dull moment. Not only does the author include how gardens influence(d) writers such as Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, Rex Stout, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, P. D. James, Ruth Ware or Dorothy L. Sayers but also how gardens and/or plants figure prominently in their mystery books. Amongst my favourite fictional gardeners include Miss Jane Marple and her cottage gardens and Nero Wolfe's obsession with his orchids which he prefers to people, prioritizing four hours a day caring for them and propagating them. Understandable as plants and gardens are certainly therapeutic.

My sincere thank you to Timber Press and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this stellar book, one which combines two of my (many) favourite hobbies, gardening and murder mysteries. A killer combination.

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