The dangerous, secret life of plants

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 August, 2010, 12:00am

The Poison Diaries
By Maryrose Wood, based on a concept by the Duchess of Northumberland
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN 97800073 54436

Alnwick Castle in England - the home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland - is one of the locations used as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

The Duchess' fascination with poisonous plants has led to a very unusual garden being created. For the past 14 years, she has been nurturing the famous Poison Garden. It is in that intriguing location that Maryrose Wood has set her gothic romance, The Poison Diaries.

Jessamine leads a lonely life with her father in a house that used to be a chapel. Her father is an alchemist, and he grows plants from which he makes ointments and medicines. But he has never allowed his daughter into the walled poison garden.

One day a teenage boy called Weed is brought to the house. Weed understands plants and could prove to be a valuable assistant.

Jessamine's father agrees to let the boy stay. Slowly, Weed opens up to Jessamine - and what he reveals is disturbing. Weed can talk to the plants, and not just the ones with pretty flowers and those that can heal.

The Poison Diaries is a carefully written novel. Jessamine is a bit of a watery character at times, but Wood's style keeps you hooked until the secrets are all revealed.