Like many people I've long enjoyed watching TV crime shows. Given the opportunity to teach a new undergraduate course a few years ago I developed a forensic botany course that merged my professional and personal interests. From this course, I've written a full-length book, Planting Clues: How Plants Solve Crimes, and a short eBook Juice of the Cursed Hebenon.
Planting Clues: How Plants Solve Crimes. 2022. Oxford University Press, UK
Available from your favorite bookseller.
“Planting Clues opens up a world that few of us know about, and while the book is heavy on technical details, it manages to balance these with (often brutal) case studies that help to bring to life the many ways in which plants (and botanists) have helped to solve crimes. This makes the pages fly by.” – Kit Gillet
2022. Available as a kindle book on Amazon or free here.
Everyone likes a good murder mystery. Novelists and film script writers are happy to oblige and in many cases include a good dose of forensic botany into the fictional mix. A representative selection of widely known crime fiction novels, especially classic works, is presented here, to draw out common misrepresentations and highlight how crime fiction can present general principles of forensic botany. Shakespeare, Agatha Christie (Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) are all well-known authors of classic literature who often included forensic botany in their work. Plant fragments, plant DNA evidence, plant toxins, and fungal evidence can be critical for solving these fictional crimes. But, how realistic are these portrayals? In reviewing forensic botany in fiction, I invite you the reader to act as a detective sleuthing the realism of the evidence, how it is collected, and how it is used.