Gardening Can Be Murder

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


By Marta McDowell

Read by Elisabeth Rodgers

Formats and Prices





  1. Audiobook Download (Unabridged) $18.99
  2. ebook $14.99 $19.99 CAD
  3. Hardcover $29.00 $37.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 23, 2024. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

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

  • “What could be more intriguing than a murder in the garden? In her newest book, Marta McDowell takes us on a delightfully diabolical romp through the role of horticulture in crime fiction. From deadly seeds, to menacing pruning shears, to suspicious groundskeepers, the garden has always provided both the motive and means to commit the perfect crime. Gardening Can Be Murder belongs on the shelf of every Agatha Christie fan—and every gardener who enjoys a little mischief and mayhem.”
    Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants
  • “I qualify my endorsement because I lost an entire morning of gardening to this most fascinating book with its interweaving of plant information with mystery books in which gardening figures. I am now torn – do I rush out to the garden to prune the hop vine, or shall I retrieve one of my Brother Cadfael mysteries from the upstairs bookcase? Interesting, well organized, original, captivating reading for gardeners and mystery fans.”
    Cynthia Riggs, author of the Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries
  • “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. It’s a delightful wander through the mystery genre from Poe to Penny and its surprisingly numerous ties to gardening. Presented in McDowell’s elegant and accessible prose, it’s completely captivating.”
    Vicki Lane, author of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries
  • “Gardeners and mystery lovers alike will delight in Marta McDowell’s charming bouquet of gardening mysteries—a botanical encyclopedia of horticultural crime. Both a handy, informative guide to a fast-growing genre and just-plain-fun reading, Gardening Can Be Murder belongs on your bookshelf. And what a lovely gift for your favorite gardener!”
    Susan Wittig Albert, author of Hemlock
  • “Wonderful mash-ups of literature and gardening lore.”
    Vicki Lane Mysteries
  • "Marta McDowell digs up the dirt on an unsuspecting source of inspiration for the mystery genre: gardens. Gardening Can Be Murder marries McDowell's encyclopedic knowledge of plants and the murder-mystery genre. She documents every shady gardener and poisoned tea, consulting literary giants both classic and current along the way."
    Reader's Digest
  • “Delves into the many ways in which mystery writers have found inspiration from poisonous plants and the more sinister side of gardens.”
    Gardens Illustrated
  • “McDowell looks at gardens from the darker side of human nature — after all, gardening and obsession have long been willing bedfellows. You’ll meet gardening detectives and find out what happens when sharp tools and toxic potions fall into the wrong hands and which gardens, real or imagined, might prove to be the setting for a perfect crime. From Agatha Christie to Elizabeth George, Louise Penny to Ruth Rendell, Dorothy L. Sayers to Raymond Chandler, the reading list at the back of the book is to die for.”
    The Seattle Times

On Sale
Jan 23, 2024
Hachette Audio