"A Plain Vanilla Murder" A China Bayles Mystery By Susan Wittig Albert: Review/Giveaway

by Sandra Murhpy

Details on how to win an ARC copy of this book at the end of the review and links to purchase it.

China and Ruby are including classes on vanilla as part of their ever-growing business. Some of their students are knowledgeable while others are surprised to find vanilla is the seed of an orchid, the only one with an edible part. Vanilla is more than a brown liquid ingredient in chocolate chip cookies and other baked goods. It takes months of curing for beans to reach the dark brown stage, adding more flavor. As growing areas shrink, vanilla prices rise. It also becomes a hot commodity for thieves.

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At the local college, a controversial professor and his graduate student are ready to apply for a patent for a new disease resistant variety. If it is successful, it will be a money maker. When the professor’s body is found in the greenhouse, the gun is at hand, it’s first thought to be suicide. The campus police chief notices small inconsistencies, suspects murder, and calls in Police Chief Sheila Dawson to consult. Eight months pregnant, Sheila’s glad for a chance to get away from her desk and to have a mental challenge in lieu of paperwork.
Image Source Persevero Press

Once murder is established, there are a number of suspects. The professor was opinionated, set on getting his way, and the heck with everyone else. Likely are his ex-wife, the graduate student, other professors, his female students, ex-girlfriends, the thief who stole a rare orchid, orchid poachers, and those who sell the black-market plants.

This is book twenty-seven of the series. Sheila clearly likes being in control and realizes that’s not going to happen with a child and a job. She’s the focus of this storyline with China in the background but helpful when it matters most. Ruby has her own story to tell as her family is expanding, too. As always, there’s Caitie and her chickens (including six rare black chicks), Winston the basset, and of course, the cat, for added entertainment.

Included at the back of the book is an interesting history of vanilla, which Albert says has an image problem. Vanilla is not boring! She includes directions to make extract, vanilla sugar, vanilla salt (good on veggies or eggs), vanilla paste, powder, syrup, butter, whipped cream, and even vanilla vinegar. There are tips on storage and rehydrating the beans, too. Recipes are scattered throughout the book—baked chicken with balsamic-orange-vanilla sauce, strawberry vanilla omelet, and a how-to for vanilla pot potpourri.

Albert also writes the Darling Dahlias mystery books set in the 1930s (8), the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter books (8), writes Victorian mysteries as Robin Paige with her husband (12), and has five stand-alone books.

To enter to win an ARC copy of A Plain Vanilla Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "vanilla,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 6, 2019. US residents only. If entering via comment please include your email address. And if entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode went up this week!

You can use these links to purchase the book. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She writes about eco-friendly topics, pets and wildlife for magazines and reviews mysteries and thrillers for KRL. A collection of her short stories, published by Untreed Reads, From Hay to Eternity: Ten Tales of Crime and Deception can be found at all the usual outlets. Each one is a little weird and all have a twist you won't see coming.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Haven't heard of this series before. Now I need to check these out.

  2. Sounds interesting, and educational as well! Would love to read this! jeaniedannheim (at) ymail (dot) com

  3. Taylor R. WilliamsJune 28, 2019 at 6:39 PM

    Sounds great - such a wonderful author - thanks for the chance to win - trwilliams69 (at) msn (dot) com

  4. Would love to win this. doward1952(at)yahoo(dot)com

  5. Thank you! JL_Minter(at)hotmail(dot)com

  6. Sounds like another great read, Thanks for your generosity. lindamay4852@yahoo.com

  7. Would really love to read. Thanks for the chance.

  8. Thanks so much for the chance to win your book. Really looking forward to reading it!
    faithdcreech at gmail dot com


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