The best mysteries with poison plants sure to please a gardener

Why am I passionate about this?

As the author of the Dr. Josephine Plantae Paradoxes, a historical mystery series based on my grandmother, an early trailblazing woman doctor, I stay true to the facts. I remember entering her apothecary filled with strange bottles of little homeopathic white pills, giant stills, and finding poisonous plants in her atrium. In my novels, Dr. Josephine Reva fights for woman’s equality and practices a mix of botanical and modern medicine, and moonlights as a sleuth to solve paradoxical ‘poison cure’ crimes. An award-winning journalist, author, and former professor with an MS from Columbia University, I studied botany. I currently live between France and New England with my family, furry friends, and lots of plants.

I wrote...


By L.M. Jorden,

Book cover of Belladonna

What is my book about?

Based on a true story. An Italian opera star dies onstage during the final act of Romeo and Juliet. Dr. Josephine Reva is in the audience and rushes to render aid. She discovers that the soprano was poisoned by Belladonna, a plant with deadly black berries. Meanwhile, the Chief Detective uncovers fascist plots to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Could these events be connected and spark another World War? Josephine must use her brilliant powers of deduction and botanical poison expertise to investigate on the high seas.

Who's the killer aboard the luxurious SS Rex? A shocking pair of surreal artists, two priests carrying the relics of a saint, a British lord, a mysterious Mussolini official, a Nazi doctor, or any of the narcissistic opera divas and dons?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Hemlock

L.M. Jorden Why did I love this book?

Hemlock contains much information about this poisonous botanical, famous for killing Socrates.

The mystery revolves around the disappearance of a rare and valuable volume of A Curious Herbal by the botanist Elizabeth Blackwell.

There’s a novel within a novel framework, and the second novel concerns the difficult life of Mrs. Blackwell as she attempts to save her family from debtor’s prison by publishing her botanical treatise.

Interestingly, Sussan Wittig Albert is a successful self-published author, and very original. Hemlock is sure to please for its exciting dual-arc stories, both concerning poisonous plants.

By Susan Wittig Albert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hemlock as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Susan Wittig Albert, the New York Times bestselling author of A Plain Vanilla Murder, comes a tightly crafted novel that juxtaposes the disappearance of a rare, remarkably illustrated 18th-century herbal with the true and all-too-human story of its gifted creator, Elizabeth Blackwell.

Herbalist China Bayles' latest adventure takes her to the mountains of North Carolina, where her friend Dorothea Harper serves as the director and curator of the Hemlock House Library, a priceless collection of rare gardening books housed in a haunted mountainside mansion that once belonged to Sunny Carswell, a reclusive heiress. But the most valuable book-A Curious…

Book cover of The Poison Diaries

L.M. Jorden Why did I love this book?

This is an illustrated novel that originated with an actual poison garden created by the Duchess of Northumberland at her estate in northern England.

This garden at Alnwick Castle is full of poisonous plants and served as the setting for scenes in several Harry Potter movies.

The Poison Diaries unfolds like a fable, about a teenage girl, Jessamine, daughter of a poison plant botanist, who must tend to the poison plants by herself. That is, until a boy named Weed appears.

The novel vividly describes the germination of Atropa Belladonna, with its deadly black berries. This beautifully illustrated book about a poison plant gardener is truly enchanting.

By Maryrose Wood, The Duchess of Northumberland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Poison Diaries as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A dark, gothic tale of romance... and murder.

In the right dose, everything is a poison.

Jessamine has spent her whole life in a cottage close to her father's apothecary garden, surrounded by medicinal plants and herbs that could kill her - although her father has never allowed her into the most dangerous part of the grounds... the poison garden. And so she's never had reason to be afraid - until now. Because now a newcomer has come to live with the family, a quiet but strangely attractive orphan boy named Weed.

Though Weed doesn't say much in words, he…

Book cover of A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons

L.M. Jorden Why did I love this book?

In the cozy mystery by Kate Khavari, Saffron is the main character who follows in her father’s footsteps as a botanist.

She’s in search of a Chilean species commonly known as Devil’s Trumpet, which has a beautiful trumpet-shaped flower that hides its poisonous use. 

This story is a ‘will-they-or-won’t they’ romance between Saffron and Alexander, a biology researcher, but what’s romance without a little plant poison in the mix?

By Kate Khavari,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Lost Apothecary meets Dead Dead Girls in this fast-paced, STEMinist adventure.

Debut author Kate Khavari deftly entwines a pulse-pounding mystery with the struggles of a woman in a male-dominated field in 1923 London.

Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh is determined to blaze a new trail at the University College London, but with her colleagues’ beliefs about women’s academic inabilities and not so subtle hints that her deceased father’s reputation paved her way into the botany department, she feels stymied at every turn.
When she attends a dinner party for the school, she expects to engage in conversations about…

Book cover of The Perfect Poison

L.M. Jorden Why did I love this book?

The Perfect Poison is part of a successful and sexy series by Amanda Quick.

It’s a Victorian-era whodunnit with a woman botanist, Lucinda Bromley, who has an unladylike flair for psychically detecting poison.

Called upon by the sympathetic Inspector Spellar, she finds that an upper-class gent was killed by Castor Bean oil combined with a toxic and rare fern — one that she grows. Her budding romance and that of Caleb Jones, part of the secretive Arcane Society, are steamy.

The dialogue is engaging and well-suited to the time period (a talent for any author). This paranormal mystery romance makes for a quick and entertaining read that pulls you into the flora and fauna of the Victorian Age.

By Amanda Quick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Perfect Poison as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this suspenseful Arcane Society novel, New York Times bestselling author Amanda Quick delves into the underworld of passion, greed and powers that lie beyond this realm.

Victorian botanist Lucinda Bromley has a rare talent: the ability to detect almost any type of poison. She also tends many rare plants, including a species of fern that was stolen from her conservatory just last month-and which turns up in a poison that was used in a nobleman's murder.

To keep her name out of the investigation and to find the killer, Lucinda hires a fellow Arcane Society member. The founder of…

Book cover of The Fair Botanists

L.M. Jorden Why did I love this book?

This book is an evocative historical tale written in rich language.

The descriptions of plants and trees while creating a botanical garden in 1832 Edinburgh are a delight to read and take you back to that time and place.

The two female protagonists are unusual; one is a botanical illustrator, and especially well-drawn is Belle, a courtesan and botanical perfumer who has a plan to use her talents to capture a rare flowering succulent to solve her problems.

Unfortunately, plans rarely work out perfectly, but this novel does. A treat for gardeners everywhere.

By Sara Sheridan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fair Botanists as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Compelling, fascinating . . . A cracking good read'
Val McDermid

'An evocative, enjoyable portrait of 1820s Edinburgh'
Sunday Times

'Lush, seductive'
Daily Mail

'Completely enchanting'

'A beautiful tale of scandal and intrigue'
Susan Stokes-Chapman, author of Pandora


Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?

It's the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV's impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower - an event that only occurs…

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Book cover of Touching the Surface

Kimberly Sabatini Author Of Touching the Surface

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Mom Coach Chocolate connoisseur HSP

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What is my book about?

When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she can't remember her past, is getting the cold shoulder from her best friend, and has no idea why she keeps repeating the same mistakes across her previous lives. Elliot just wants to move on, but first, she'll be forced to look at her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. She'll also have to face the person she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her previous lives, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most…

Touching the Surface

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What is this book about?

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