Plotting poisons into fiction, a list of resources #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Plotting poisons into fiction, a list of resources

I had the privilege recently of attending a Crime Writers of Canada webinar called Plots, Plants and Poisons, led by Elaine Freedman. I enjoyed the webinar so much, I asked Elaine if she would share her resource list on the literary applications of poisons with my readers. She agreed (yea!) and her annotated list of books and websites follows. I’d like to stress that I’m posting this solely as a resource for writers who are or would like to write about poisons.

Elaine has been a fan of crime fiction since she started reading her grandmother’s Alfred Hitchcock magazines as a little girl. A freelance editor for more than thirty years, she especially enjoys editing crime fiction and has judged for both the Crime Writers of Canada Awards and the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Awards. She has delivered talks on poisonous plants and mushrooms to the Bloody Words mystery conference, the Bony Blithe mini-con, Sisters in Crime Toronto, and the Crime Writers of Canada. Elaine has been painting watercolors for more than ten years, and she recently used her paintings of poisonous flowers to produce the My Little Poison Garden greeting card collection (image and details below the list.)


Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines by Sarah Albee
Overview: actually a book for younger readers, but excellent history of poisoning with good notes on specific poisons. The book, “traces the role that poisons have played in history from antiquity to the present.”

Plants That Kill: A Natural History of the World’s Most Poisonous Plants by Elizabeth A. Dauncey and Sonny Larsson
Overview: one of the more technical books, ordered by body system affected, with good explanations and illustrations. Includes information on what can mitigate effects of poisons/save someone’s life.

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup
Overview: excellent book on poisons used by Christie. “Each chapter takes a different novel and investigates the poison used by the murderer.”

Book of Poisons: A Guide for Writers by Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon
Overview: this is from the Writer’s Digest books Howdunnit series, and it’s the best resource for crime on poisoning. Includes toxicity ratings, effects, and time until symptoms or death. It’s an update to their earlier book Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart
Overview: “Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this compendium of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, alarm, and enlighten even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers.” Good anecdotes and descriptions of effects.

Dangerous Garden : The Quest for Plants to Change our Lives by David Stuart
Overview: well-written with good historical references.

North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms by Nancy J. Turner and Patrick von Aderkas
Overview: an excellent field guide with photos, descriptions, occurrence, toxicity, and notes on wild plants and cultivars. Includes special appendices for honey and milk poisons, and medicinal herbs.

Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants (second edition) by Lewis S. Nelson, M.D., Richard D. Shih, M.D., and Michael J. Balick, Ph.D.
Overview: 2007 handbook by physicians and a botanist with excellent information on management of poisoning and how specific plants poison.

Plotting poisons into fiction, a list of resourcesWeb Resources:

The FDA’s searchable Poisonous Plant Database

Wikipedia page for List of Poisonous Plants Wikipedia page

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through. Click here to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition.

Do you think you’ll ever incorporate poisons into a story? Have you done so already? Any poisons in particular you’re curious about? Chat with me in the comments. If you’re interested in purchasing Elaine’s My Little Poison Garden greeting card collection (image below), you can email her at

Plotting poisons into fiction, a list of resources

64 thoughts on “Plotting poisons into fiction, a list of resources #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

    1. Hi Jacqui! I’ve checked all over the Crime Writers of Canada website, and I think their intention was to make the webinar recording available to members only. Sorry! I think the list is a great place to get started, though. Good luck!


  1. I love this sort of thing, bookmarking for later 😀 Plenty of ideas for poisons for my fantasy stories! (I’m not a crazy person, promise!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love studying poisonous plants. My protagonist dabbles in herbs and medicinal flowers, which, in the wrong hands, could be used for nefarious purposes. Thanks for the resource links – I’m bookmarking them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Let’s hope a murderer doesn’t get their hands on this list! LOL I love finding resources like this, but for my genre I veer towards psychology books. Thanks for sharing! I may need one of these someday…for a writing project, just to clarify. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. NOTHING to see here, NSA agents, I’m totally not planning on poisoning anyone at all with all these books about poison, haha, nope. Don’t worry about my search history whatsoever! Haha. We writers end up with the most incriminating Google searches ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We write about so many different things.

    Things like this will help when we need to add some reality to the scene. It’ll also help if and when we need to quiet that ‘special someone’. (kidding!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A very thorough and impressive list.
    It’s interesting how often parts of something are poisonous, or are poisonous if not handled properly. I remember reading somewhere that many of our modern foods have poisonous attributes/components, and many times the line between medicine and poison is in the quantity and frequency of use.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating list. Thank you for sharing it. I’m curious to read Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines by Sarah Albee because of the interesting title of the book. Thanks for hosting this blog hop.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, now y’all need to think outside the box. I’ve been running outside methods of “dispatch” in Gambits. Champagne corks, hickeys…poison, although a staple of all the true detective murder porn on TV, is so “Murder She Wrote.” I mean all the poison and adultery and bad redneck grammar and procedural is already out there just waiting to be transcribed. However any research resource is a good one, and I appreciate that, but you can’t beat a resource for strange facts. An angry bride, a jealous bridegroom, a random death by champagne cork or another champagne poisoning? I’m telling you, stretch. Like Murder She Wrote. They had us believing Mendocino California was Cabot Cove, Maine. It’s all in the redirect and red herrings…Thanks!


  9. What an excellent and informative post, Raimey! Thank you sooo much for sharing these resources with your readers. I’ve read every Agatha Christie book and my mother loved the Alfred Hitchcock magazine stories. They were too scary for me. All best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a great resource! I am making this post for writing and reading, I read a lot of historical (nearly wrote hysterical!) mysteries and something wonder if the info is accurate, so this will come in very handy. Thanks, Raimey.

    Liked by 1 person

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