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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but don't expect to use if for identification (like I did!)
Essentially a good book, well-researched and structured. Based on the author's experiences showing folk around the poison garden at Alnwick (based on this book, I'm now planning a visit).

I've given it 4 stars bc I personally disagreed with some of the arguments although they were certainly well-argued and factually-based (sorry no examples). It would be fair...
Published on 30 April 2010 by Nothern Climes

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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Drearily written little book
The author of this book was once on the staff of the Alnwick Garden, in charge of conducting visitors around the award winning Poison Garden. Whether he was sacked or has some axe to grind with Alnwick is unknown, but his appalling attitude towards the garden and, importantly, its visitors, comes across very well. Apart from the fact that this is written with all the...
Published on 26 Jun. 2010 by Mr. R. T. Bowes


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but don't expect to use if for identification (like I did!), 30 April 2010
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Nothern Climes (Yorkshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Is That Cat Dead?: And Other Questions About Poison Plants (Paperback)
Essentially a good book, well-researched and structured. Based on the author's experiences showing folk around the poison garden at Alnwick (based on this book, I'm now planning a visit).

I've given it 4 stars bc I personally disagreed with some of the arguments although they were certainly well-argued and factually-based (sorry no examples). It would be fair to say that John is not lacking an opinion about this subject!

My mistake was to believe that this book would be more like an indent-i-kit for poisonous plants, which it isn't. In fact, I don't remember seeing a single picture or drawing, apart from the front cover. I don't know whether such a thing exists (a full listing with colour photos and descriptions of toxic plants growing in the UK), but if it does, please don't hesitate to let me know!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Folksy, 10 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Is That Cat Dead?: And Other Questions About Poison Plants (Paperback)
Not the longest book in the world and written in a fairly informal style, it is true that some of the author's latent hostility towards Alnwick comes across but I still found the information he had to impart really interesting. The chapter structure is a little haphazard and there are no illustrations but it doesn't advertise itself as reference material.
It contains some brilliant anecdotes about ancient traditions, folklore, witchcraft, murder and misuse (but the author has no time for homeopathy!!!) All in all, if you're looking for an intelligent read full of interesting facts about plant toxins without the heavy scientific/botanical language that comes with horticultural toxicology textbooks, this is a great start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and fun to read, 22 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Is That Cat Dead?: And Other Questions About Poison Plants (Paperback)
I took this book away with me to kill off endless hours stuck in a plane flying over the Atlantic. Not only did the time fly past (no pun intended)but I learnt a great deal and it had me laughing out loud several times. The author has a great way of giving information and making it stick in your head at the same time. This is great book if you have any interest in what's growing in the countryside or even your garden. Money well spent on this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read, if a little eccentric, 28 Jan. 2014
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Wonderful to read a book by someone who knows their subject so well and has a lot of experience discussing poison plants with the public. Some of the poisons are ones you don't expect - like marijuana, nicotine and everyday household flowers. Lovely use of anecdote and colour. but It would appear that the writer used to be a guide at a well-known poison garden and left after a disagreement about what to plant and how to present it. As a result a whiff of martyrdom comes off certain passages, but it's a fun read all the same, especially for the crime writer looking for a good gruesome end.. .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cat is alive and well, 22 Jan. 2013
I have always had yearning for reading about something that is a bit different and this book did not disappoint. I found John Robertson`s descriptive text on the poison garden at Alnwick Gardens very entertaining, well worth a read.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Drearily written little book, 26 Jun. 2010
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This review is from: Is That Cat Dead?: And Other Questions About Poison Plants (Paperback)
The author of this book was once on the staff of the Alnwick Garden, in charge of conducting visitors around the award winning Poison Garden. Whether he was sacked or has some axe to grind with Alnwick is unknown, but his appalling attitude towards the garden and, importantly, its visitors, comes across very well. Apart from the fact that this is written with all the style and flair of a bucket of mud (never have I read a book which sucks all the life out of its subject and renders it so dull), the author constantly and consistently belittles visitors to the garden and their comments, adopting a sneering and lofty "I know much better than you" tone throughout. More informed and educated about the plants he may be, but this wretched attitude hangs over this book like a pall of smoke from a bonfire.

Robertson proceeds to belittle the designer of the garden, then towards the end of the book lays into those responsible for the management and general care of the plants, all the while being rude in print to those less knowledgeable (ie visitors). Factually correct his book may be, but his attitude sucks. This man clearly has issues. The fact that he still makes a living out of his time at the garden by giving lectures is smugly referenced several times - I began to think that this book was merely written as "advertorial".

His writing style is chaotic, regularly introducing topics then abandoning them and flying off at wild tangents before trying desperately to regain his thread (mainly with the use of "by the way" and "as I said before").

This book is desperately disappointing; drearily written with no eye to readability or the telling of a good story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great subject matter marred by awful typos and editing gaffs., 18 May 2014
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Such a shame that the further into the kindle version of this book that I go, the weirder the sentences get, with odd non-sequiturs and jumbles of phrases clearly cut and pasted without proof-reading. Otherwise full of nice stories and fun facts about poisonous plants and the early history of the Poison garden at Alnwick Castle.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The cat lives!, 3 Aug. 2013
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Recommended for anyone with an interest in knowing more about the plants in their garden beyond how nice they look. Recommended too, for amateur gardeners like myself who end up in A&E because they think they'll just quickly collect some seeds from that attractive plant by the wall, using their bare hands and look up the properties of that plant AFTER they have made their hands go numb and also managed to contaminate the food surfaces in the kitchen. In my case, the plant turned out to be Aconitum, and 'Is That Cat Dead' had some wonderful stories about how it had killed people over the centuries. Needless to say, I responded to the plant information first, took myself to A&E, THEN regaled the waiting room with tales of accidental death and cold-blooded murder. Always important to get the sequence right. A great book, entertainingly ( you should hav heard the guffaws in A&E) and informatively written. A must for you and all your gardening friends
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dying isn't nearly as easy as you'd think, 30 Jun. 2013
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I came across this book while looking for information about buttercups on John Robertson's website (to settle a bet, since you ask, not for murderous purposes).

While it's a bit pricey for a relatively short book, I enjoyed it so much that I'm giving it five stars. If you're looking for an exhaustive guide to poisonous plants in the UK, this is not it. If you're looking for a collection of the best anecdotes about some of them, then you've found it here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulously funny and informative, 13 May 2014
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I bough this book to help me plan my own garden and found it to be immeasurably witty and helpful
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Is That Cat Dead?: And Other Questions About Poison Plants
Is That Cat Dead?: And Other Questions About Poison Plants by John Robertson (Paperback - 30 April 2010)
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