A Plain Vanilla Murder
(China Bayles Mystery #27)
by Susan Wittig Albert
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 04 Jun 2019 | Archive Date 14 Jun 2019
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, happy to get out from behind the chief’s desk, 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.
However, there’s no shortage of other 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 Plain Vanilla Murder is a flavorful blend of mystery and herb lore, present sins and past secrets, and characters who are as real as your next-door neighbors—stirred together in an absorbing novel that only Susan Wittig Albert could create.
A Note From the Publisher
ebook 978-0-9982332-2-2; audio to come
"Engrossing...China continues to appeal with her herbal information and savvy sleuthing."
"[China Bayles is] such a joy... An instant friend."
—Carolyn Hart, New York Times bestselling author
"One of the best-written and [most] well-plotted mysteries I've read in a long time."
—Los Angeles Times
"Albert's dialogue and characterizations put her in a class with lady sleuths V. I. Warshawski and Stephanie Plum."
--Advance distribution of digital (NetGalley) and print ARCs
--Print and online marketing campaigns, trade and consumer advertising, Goodreads giveaways, blog tour, BookBub alerts, IBPA public library E-blasts, ALA display
--Author's social media platform has over 25000 followers, 8500 subscribers to monthly eletter, email lists contain over 20,000 addresses
Average rating from 82 members
I love China Bayles mysteries and this was a very good one. I learn a lot about orchids and vanilla, and read an entertaining and engaging mystery. The mystery was solid as usual and it was great to meet again the usual cast of character and to meet new ones. I loved how the plot was developed, fast paced and full of twists and turns, the well written characters and the lovely setting. It wasn't hard to spot the culprit but I had to understand the reasons beyond the murder. I look forward to reading the next installment by Ms Wittig Albert. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
A Plain Vanilla Murder is anything but plain! Actually a very complicated mess, the murder could possibly have been done by quite a few people, as the victim was much disapproved of and even hated. China Bayles and her friend, the police chief, are working to get the facts straightened out and solve the case. The book contains some good recipes using real vanilla pods, and quite a lot of good information about how vanilla is grown and harvested. Add in all the relevant news of the day and location descriptions of Texas towns, and you have a very interesting book that keeps you turning pages until the end. Another wonderful Susan Wittig Albert book!
I spent the weekend in Pecan Springs, Texas and enjoyed every minute. It was good to be with old friends China Bayles and Ruby Wilcox as I read A Plain Vanilla Murder, number 27 in the China Bayles series.. Susan Wittig Albert has once again created a masterful mystery that will keep you too in Pecan Springs. The flavor this time is vanilla--who knew that vanilla beans come from an orchid that grows only in a few tropical spots and that there is a big black market for smuggled orchids? Albert links together the tropical world of orchids and the Texas town of Pecan Springs when the apparent suicide of a botany professor is revealed as a homicide. Along the way she weaves in threads that lighten the heavy seriousness of murder and smuggling--very pregnant Smart Cookie, the Pecan Springs police chief, spends most of her time in urgent search of the nearest bathroom, and there's a parrot with an amazing vocabulary. But murder is serious business, and Albert has done her research on orchids and vanilla, Texas gun laws, and even child custody cases. With a surprise twist, it all comes together to make great reading. Fascinating reading.
What a lovely book! Murder and mayhem in a vanilla flavoured Texas. The characters are fun if a little eccentric, the murder pleasingly designed and the descriptions of small town life delicious. Interwoven throughout is vanilla and the passions that it, and all orchids, invoke - hate, lust, greed, jealousy, revenge. Amongst the detecting from a heavily pregnant Chief, Sheila Dawson, and her team we also have folk-lore, remedies and cooking (all with vanilla of course) making a detective story with a difference. China Bayles is our modern day Miss Marple of a sorts and works well investigating/nosing from the side lines whilst also taking the main role of herbalist extraordinaire. There are plenty of red herrings, masked by vanillin, and even more suspects. I like the mix of useful snippets and recipes amongst the story although the odd little changes in grammar took a while to get used to (oh dear, hanging preposition). Bits turned into third person text then back to 'normal' dialogue but it's a very minor criticism. I've now learnt that there are other books featuring the two main characters, Sheila and China, and will be looking out for those. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Persevero Press, for an advance copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
I love this series, and this one was no exception. China Bayles and Ruby Wilcox are such studies in contrast that they blend beautifully as strong solid characters and great amateur sleuths. This story gives us a better inside look at Police Chief Sheila, aka, Smart Cookie. There's a lot of interesting information about vanilla and orchids, which are a huge part of the exciting murder and mystery. If you love a good mystery, this one's for you. Looking forward to the next in series. Unlike many mystery series, this author's stories just get better and better. 5 stars, for sure!
I have been reading China Bayles almost since the beginning of the series. Each book seems to be better and more intense than the last one, but yet you still feel that down-to-earthiness with China. I love learning, in great detail, about each herb Ms. Albert writes about. I take away information that is very useful in real life cooking situations. This is another must-read from Ms. Albert that will keep you turning the pages.
Everything you ever wanted to know about vanilla, orchids and crime solving rolled up into one great adventure. I loved the history sections of vanilla and info on orchids. I know I would kill an orchid probably by just looking at it as the author explained how challenging they are to raise and thrive. The book was hard to put down. Isn't it annoying when you have to work or sleep? I was drawn into this charming hometown with characters that are open minded and refreshing. A very exhausted pregnant police chief who is still very much a pro at what she does despite her need for numerous bathroom breaks works along with China Bayles whose life now center around her thriving business and family. Murder, smugglers and kidnappers keep China on her toes and the reader turning the pages to race to the end. I highly recommend this book and look forward to another visit with China and her engaging friends. Posted to Goodreads and will post on KOBO, Amazon and Barnes and Noble when published.
Sheila, Pecan Springs very pregnant police chief, is called into a case involving the death of a professor at a local university. Is it really suicide? Did his extracurricular activities have something to do with his death? He was doing research on rare vanilla orchids, and China is doing a vanilla workshop at her herb shop, so she becomes involved in the case. This series is one of my favorites--the protagonist, China, owns an herb shop, and the author not only does research on the plant in the title, but also includes recipes. I loved the talking parrot who quotes Star Trek, and hope he comes back in subsequent books.
This book has, literally, a lot to offer: an absorbing murder mystery that held my attention, a LOT of quite interesting information about vanilla, and a generous array of tempting recipes. Turns out, “plain vanilla” is anything but. Plain, that is. I had no idea what a valuable crop it is, how expensive and rare it is, how labor-intensive it is to bring vanilla to us to use and enjoy. Those facts are the framework for an intriguing story that is rich in characters, scenic detail, and plot lines. Ms. Albert is one of those enviable writers who has been able to produce multiple popular series and continues to provide us with great reading. I found this book thoroughly enjoyable and also immensely informative. My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.
Despite the title of this novel, the murder mentioned in the title is anything but plain vanilla! Of course, the author would state that there is no such thing as plain vanilla anyway; I would agree. A professor of botany who has a great interest in vanilla has been murdered. The murder at first looks like a suicide, but it soon becomes clear that it is not. His ex-wife is the first suspect, of course. But then it turns out that the professor might have been involved in this several shady dealings, perhaps smuggling or taking full credit where it should have been shared. While I read a lot of mysteries, this was a new author for me. The research is very detailed; I liked the extra details included in the author's note and the vanilla recipes at the end. These aren’t baking recipes; instead, they are recipes that can serve as foundations of other dishes, like homemade vanilla extract, vanilla powder, and even vanilla salt. The author has created a cast of characters whom I could tell had been together for a long time in the earlier books of the series. I like how the narrative focus shifted between the amateur sleuth and the detective. I appreciated that they weren’t at odds and actually worked together; they do have different approaches, so they come up with different information. I am used to reading stories where part of the conflict involves the relationship between the amateur and the real detective. It was refreshing to read a different take. The mystery itself had lots of twists and turns—like the many different notes as pure vanilla—creating a delightful rabbit hole to go down in order to figure out the who and the why. While this might have been my first book by this author, I'm sure it won't be the last.
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!