Amy Stewart

Books: Science | Botany | Mystery | Distaff


Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities (2009)


Kopp Sisters: Girl Waits with Gun (2015), Lady Cop Makes Trouble (2016)

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities (2009)

Wicked PlantsCute, and at times interesting, but also at times, she was trying way too hard.

Plants (at least to me) are fascinating in and of themselves. And people do tend to naively assume that if someone is a plant it's therefore "natural and healthy." This is, of course, ridiculous, since people have been poisoning since the dawn of time, not just the advent of manufacturing.

The book covers not just poisons (like foxglove and oleander) and hazards (like nettles and acacia) but also invasive species like kudzu and water hyacinth, and even toxic blue green algae (which isn't a plant).

The book is alphabetical (although scientific names are given, the plants are alphabetized by common name) with sections like "deadly dinner" and "fatal fungus" covering multiple species.

This is actually probably a very good book for people who tend to think that natural automatically equals good, or naively think that you can wander in the woods without a care in the world. But I can't say there was very much I got from the book, and I thought sometimes she was trying too hard to get her point across.

Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Rating: 6/10

Kopp Sisters

Girl Waits with Gun (2015)

Set in New Jersey in 1915.

After the disappointment of the previous book I finished, I needed something completely different to clear my brain. I probably read the first paragraphs of about five books before I settled on this.


Constance Kopp was a real woman, and the majority of the events in this book actually happened. The author made up the dialog and some of the details and a couple of the characters, but the majority of what is between the covers is true.


I discovered that I'd actually read a book by Any Stewart before. Specifically, Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities.

Constance Kopp and her sisters spent their lives keeping their heads down and out of the public eye.

My mother married my father, Frank Kopp, at the age of twenty. He was what my grandparents called Bohemian, which meant that he was Czech, but in some convoluted way having to do with the outcomes of wars still being fought in those distant countries, they had decided that he was practically Austrian. They were relieved he wasn't a Jew, and even though my mother had met him in New York, he wasn't an American. On the grounds of what he was not, my grandparents allowed him to marry their daughter.

But getting hit by an automobile changes everything, and not only gets them in trouble, but gets them in the papers.

Because this is a true story, she's about to put in a lot of things that are stark reminders of just how different life was for women, 100 years ago.

"How do three girls manage the running of a household on their own? Is there not an uncle or some other male relation who could take you in?"


This is a fascinating story that I enjoyed, and was even more impressed by when I finished it and discovered that Constance Kopp was a real person and had the actual adventures described here.

Publisher: Mariner Books

Rating: 8/10

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (2016) 

Set in New York and New Jersey in 1915.

Constance Kopp has been working as a deputy, but since the county won't allow her a badge and official position, she ends up relegated to prison matron.

At the start of the book, she meets with Mrs. Headison, to first female cop in New Jersey.

"Do you know that he hadn't even considered adding a woman to his force? I had to argue my case, and you can be sure I did. Do you know why he was so reluctant? The chief told me himself that if women start going about in uniforms, armed with guns and clubs, we would turn into little men."

But she is not what Constance wants to be.

The things they have you doing— well, I couldn't do it, even if they did pay me."

I stared down at her. Lettie was watching the two of us, open-mouthed.

"Don't they pay you?"

My salary was a thousand dollars a year, the same as the other deputies.

"Ah— well, of course not," she said, slowly, still puzzling it out. "The chief expects me to serve out of a sense of duty and honor, and not to take a salary away from a policeman."

And that's how things were in 1915. Like this previous book, most of the people in the story actually existed, as did the crimes, but some of the events were modified for better story-telling.

Her boss, Sherriff Heath, is a radical for the time.

(W)e've got no doctors, no nurses, and no druggist. We should fix them up a little while they're here, and not just because it's our Christian duty, but because we have an opportunity to put them on a path to clean living. Give a man a shower and a hot meal and a Bible to study and hard work to keep his hands busy— that's how you turn a criminal into a citizen. Not by locking him in a dungeon."

It's another interesting story, and I do like the fact that Constance and the events were real, and that in the story her actions weren't exaggerated (just, somewhat, her faults and weaknesses).

"It says here that Deputy Kopp has an athletic build and weighs a hundred and eighty pounds."

"What?" Fleurette cried out.

"They printed that?" I said.

"Well, you do, don't you?" Norma said.

"At least that. But I didn't think they'd put it in the paper. They kept asking Sheriff Heath if I was fit for duty as a deputy, and for some reason they demanded to know my height and weight, but I never supposed—"

I get why, dramatically, the scene in the hospital that causes the trouble was added in, but I kidna feel like it does a disservice to Constance. Not that what happened couldn't have happened to anymore, but I suppose I felt bad for–she had enough going against her without the author modifying it to give her extra mistakes.

Otherwise? Fun!

Publisher: Mariner Books

Rating: 8/10