Cover Image: A Plain Vanilla Murder

A Plain Vanilla Murder

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Many Threads…
The twenty seventh in the China Bayles series of mysteries, as usual carefully and fluidly written and brimming with description. A book of many threads, not just the mystery itself but also of folk lore and plants and at times the mystery took largely second place.
Was this review helpful?
A Plain Vanilla Murder by Susan Wittig Albert is a great novel.

There are suspects: a betrayed lover, a disgruntled graduate student, jealous colleagues, and a gang of orchid smugglers. 

But the lethal roots of this mystery reach back into the dark tropical jungles of Mexico, where the vanilla vine was first cultivated. At stake: a lucrative plant patent, an orchid that is extinct in the wild, and the life of an innocent little girl.

A must read, I highly recommend!
Was this review helpful?
This is a book that is #27 in a series: China Bayles mystery Book 27 to be exact. Unfortunately, this wasn't clear from the title as posted on NetGalley. I haven't ready any of the other books in the series so it was tricky for me to give a fair review.
Was this review helpful?
A terrific read a mystery that uniquely teaches us about vanilla has recipes  and a multi layered storyline.I will be looking forward to reading more by this author whose writing drew me right in.Strong characters involving storyline. Kept me turning the pages.#netgalley#Aplainvanillamurder
Was this review helpful?
A Plain Vanilla Murder

by Susan Wittig Albert

It is not like me to jump into a cozy mystery series on the twenty-seventh book. Who engages in that kind of craziness anyway? Amazingly, I didn’t find the lapse in character background knowledge to be a problem. While A Plain Vanilla Murder is not the best cozy I’ve ever read, it was very good. I particularly liked all the information provided on vanilla. I had no idea vanilla is part of an orchid plant or that there is such an active trade in exotic orchid plants.

This mystery has lots of threads. A professor is killed, and lots of enemies emerge as possible suspects. Could the motive be professional rivalry, dalliances or orchid laundering? All are sufficient to motivate an attacker, but what really happened? The main character, China Bayles, is a former criminal lawyer. This is one of the few crimes that land on her doorstep that leads her to become involved professionally.

Always interested in learning new things about a subject, I enjoyed the many quotes about vanilla that are included in the chapters as well as in the addendum. Susan Wittig Albert is a prolific writer as evidenced by this series that focuses on herbs and spices as well as the three other series she writes in addition to a number of independent books. I look forward to reading more by this author.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Persevero Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery, Women’s Fiction

Notes: #27 in the China Bayles Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   June 4, 2019— Persevero Press

Memorable Lines:

Campus politics are labyrinthine. A dispute involving faculty can be vicious, even if it looks like nothing more than a petty turf war over a few inconsequential footnotes in an insignificant publication. It can also be something bigger, dirtier, and deeper.

My first thought was that he was the last person on earth to do such a thing. But of course you can never tell what devils live in somebody’s private hell.

Any time you have to sit down with a cop, you immediately remember the times you’ve jaywalked or parked where you shouldn’t or failed to return a library book and now have a humongous unpaid fine. It’s stupid, of course, but it’s a universal paranoia, and completely understandable.
Was this review helpful?
China and Ruby are offering a workshop about all things vanilla.. Vanilla bean, extract, paste, etc. Meanwhile, a college professor who is developing a new vanilla plant has died from what appears to be a suicide, but something seems off. When the chief of police is asked to come to the college to give her upon the investigation begins and the suicide turns out to be a murder. There is nothing plain about how vanilla is connected to everyone involved. 

This is the 27th book in the series but my first. I had no problem understanding the storyline, so definitely can be enjoyed as a stand-alone mystery. I enjoyed learning about vanilla plants and spice. The characters are well developed and realistic. The storyline was well-plotted and moved along at a nice pace. The mystery has several twists and turns. Even though there were not a lot of suspects I did not figure out whodunit until the big reveal. I recommend this book to cozy mystery fans and I plan on reading more of this series in the future. 

I voluntarily agreed to read a copy of this book supplied by Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own and in no way have been influenced.
Was this review helpful?
"A Plain Vanilla Murder" is a whodunit murder mystery set in present day Texas.
The body of botany Professor Carl Fairlee is found in his Central Texas State University greenhouse, apparently a suicide victim. However, a sharp-eyed university police officer sees evidence that the gunshot wound is inconsistent with suicide.  An autopsy confirms her suspicions and the death is deemed to be a murder. This finding begins a police investigation that soon reveals the professor was a bad person with plenty of enemies.  Several of them have strong motives to want him out of the picture. Sorting out the potential killers makes for a good story.
Storytelling duty is shared between two narrators: China Bayles is a former Houston attorney, now a shop-owner and caterer, in Pecan Springs Texas (midway between San Antonio and Austin) and Sheila Dawson the Pecan Springs Police Department.  In addition to the murder mystery, there's an educational theme about vanilla and orchids that works well with the main story.  
This is the 28th book in the China Bayles series but it can stand alone without too much difficulty. It's the first of the series that I have read and based on my experience with it, I'll be trying some of the others.
It's a good easy read, provided you can keep track of all the characters and don't get lost amongst the vanilla and orchid trivia.  
My thanks to Persevero Press which provided my review copy of this eBook via Netgalley.  The comments about it are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Another great one from  Susan Wittig Albert. Learned so much about vanilla! A great story and informative information that will stick with you.
Was this review helpful?
I've read this series since the first book and these characters have truly become 'old friends'.  The relationship between China and her friends seems realistic and I like the relationships between them.  

This mystery kept me guessing with the twists and turns.  Just when I thought I have solved the mystery, here is another solution to consider.

I liked my visit to Pecan Springs and I'm already ready for a return visit.
Was this review helpful?
This is the 27th book in the long-running China Bayles series and, even though I've read thousands of mysteries, incredibly, it was my very first China Bayles book. For me, this meant that I had a lot of catching up to do, in terms of the characters. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this one.

Even though I have very little interest in vanilla and orchids, the author explained these very well and, in fact, made them interesting. All while crafting an intriguing plot.

After reading this 27th China Bayles book, I've now picked up the first couple books in the series, to see how it all started. 

Definitely a series I would recommend.
Was this review helpful?
I wanted to wait and read this ARC from NetGalley until I read the one right before it to catch up, and I am glad I did as she mentions several events from that book in this one.  I love this series and once I started it, I finished it in two days!

China and Ruby Wilcox are presenting their annual ''Not Just Plain Vanilla Workshop,'' always a huge hit with customers at Thyme & Seasons Herb Shop. But someone involved with the workshop is driven by a deadly motive, and China soon finds herself teaming up with the very pregnant Pecan Springs police chief Sheila Dawson to solve a vanilla-flavored murder. Sheila is investigating the death of a botany professor, a prominent researcher specializing in vanilla orchids. China is trying to help a longtime friend: the dead professor's ex-wife and a prime suspect in his murder.  There is a gang of suspects and Sheila and China try to sort them all out.

I love this series as Albert/China always give me an education in the plant involved in the story, in this case the Vanilla orchid.
Was this review helpful?
After 27 books in the series, Albert maintains a consistency of excellence in book over book. China Bayles, an ex-Houston lawyer, moved to Pecan Springs, Texas, to buy an herb shop. Over the years, she and her partner, Ruby, have added a tea shop, a gourmet meal service and even a B&B. All the while educating us on the interesting points of a plant and, of corse, solving a murder. The theme of this book is vanilla and orchid propagation and smuggling. A professor, specializing in orchids, was found dead in campus and while it seemed like suicide, he was murderered. And there is no shortage of suspects who may have done the deed. As always, the characters in Pecan Springs are well drawn and engaging. From the pregnant police chief to the bitter ex-wife, all are sympathetic and human. Another winner in th is series!
Was this review helpful?
If you love spices, especially vanilla, this is the right book to learn its history. It was a lovely mystery book. Thank you Netgalley for this adventure.
Was this review helpful?
I just discovered author Susan Wittig Albert a few months ago when I read a book from one of her other series. I wanted to read more of her writing and was so pleased to find A Plain Vanilla Murder. What a story! A great mystery. Great characters. Lots of information on vanilla - I had no idea! Plus recipes and one of the best stories I've read in a while. Ms. Albert is a masterful storyteller. and I can't wait to read more!
Was this review helpful?
Who knew vanilla could be so deadly? China Bayles teaches a very popular educational class on this popular flavoring, including details on how the plant is grown and marketed, along with some history and mythology surrounding vanilla. Little did she ever expect her expertise to become necessary in a murder investigation! Meanwhile, China’s friend and police chief, Sheila Dawson, is ready for her uncomfortable pregnancy to be done so she can return to regular police work rather than sitting behind a desk. Sheila jumps at the invitation to help investigate the apparent suicide of a local botany professor. 

Susan Wittig Albert changes things up a bit with A PLAIN VANILLA MURDER, offering us two different viewpoints for the story line. We see the story unfolding from China’s perspective as is typical, but we also get to see the investigation from Sheila’s point of view. I liked this change as it definitely gave a broader and more realistic view of the investigation. However, what I liked even more so was getting to know Sheila better as a main character rather than just as a secondary character who is friends with China. I did miss seeing as much of Ruby, who tends to be China’s sidekick, but Sheila is a lot of fun too.

A PLAIN VANILLA MURDER is the 27th installment in the phenomenal <i>China Bayles</i> series and can easily be read as a standalone story. However, I can’t imagine reading just one book in the <i>China Bayles</i> series and not wanting more. Susan Wittig Albert’s spectacular mystery series has it all- engaging and intelligent characters, a solid mystery, and the kind of setting that makes you want to climb inside the pages of her books, never mind the intriguing herbal facts provided in each book. If you love cozy mysteries, then don’t hesitate to give A PLAIN VANILLA MURDER or any other <i>China Bayles</i> book a try!

*review will be posted at Fresh Fiction*
Was this review helpful?
This is the 27th book in this beloved series and I have read most of the series. I highly recommend this series and always enjoy returning to the author's imagination.  I learn a lot about herbs from her books and she crafts a very good sleuth.  I received a ARC from Net Galley and my opinions are my own. 
In this next in series the focus is on Vanilla which I found fascinating. 
China is offering a workshop on the spice Vanilla.  She hopes to educate her students on its wide uses and teach them various ways to use vanilla. 
When a  professor of botany at the college is found a victim of apparent suicide the medical examiner rules the death a homicide . China is interested in taking on the case due to the mysterious circumstances and soon learns that the man had more enemies than friends . Chief of Police Sheila Dawson is also on the case and very pregnant.  She  and China soon have multiple suspects and clues abound as they delve closely to who might be the real killer. 

I always enjoy learning more about spices and herbs in this series. The sleuth is well crafted and this series is like visiting a old friend for a afternoon, I look forward to the next in series.
Was this review helpful?
Great read. The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
Was this review helpful?
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars, I mostly liked it....

Book 27 in the series. Please, don't start here! Start at the beginning of the series.

I love this series. That said, this was not at all my favorite book. It was a lot heavy on descriptions and veered in to tedious at times because of it. Also, the switching points of view, as well as tense changes with each POV, were weird.

And could Smart Cookie just have the baby already?

I will keep reading the series, and hope that this one was just an experiment for the author.
Was this review helpful?
Sheila, a very pregnant police-chief, is called into a probably suicide at the local university. The case centers around orchids. China has been running a vanilla class through her emporium. Who knew that vanilla was produced from orchids? There’s a fair amount of information regarding the growing of vanilla which I found interesting. The main story of who killed the professor is interesting. It’s been awhile since I’ve read one of these books. I definitely recommend this one.
Was this review helpful?
This was my first time reading  Susan Wittig Albert, author of 27 China Bayles Mysteries. I am surprised that Hallmark Channel hasn’t added this to their Mystery Wheel!  #AplainVanillaMurder
Was this review helpful?