A Plain Vanilla Murder – Book 27


“One of the best-written and [most] well-plotted mysteries I’ve read in a long time.”
Los Angeles Times

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 be 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.

Bonus: A note from Susan on the intriguing story of vanilla (the orchid, the spice, the cash crop, and the artificial flavoring), plus creative ways to use vanilla beans.

6 Vanilla Facts

  1. The flower that produces the vanilla bean blooms for only one day, but it takes nearly 6 months to dry and cure the beans.
  2. Only the Melipona bee, found in Central America, can pollinate the vanilla flower. Elsewhere, humans pollinate the blooms by hand.
  3. After saffron, vanilla is the most expensive spice in the world.
  4. Vanilla was once used as a medicine, a stimulant, and an aphrodisiac.
  5. Only about two percent of items sold as “vanilla-flavored” (foods, beverages, medicines, perfumes, bodycare) actually contain pure vanilla.
  6. Synthetic vanilla has been produced by coal tar, cinnamon, paper waste, pine bark, and even (yes) cow poop.

And for a stunning tour of the orchid house at the New York Botanical Garden (including a close look at the vanilla orchid) go here. Well worth the time.

Praise for The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

“Another truly riveting read for dedicated mystery buffs by a true master of the genre.”
Midwest Book Review

“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.”
Fresh Fiction

“[Albert] consistently turns out some of the best-plotted mysteries on the market.”
Houston Chronicle

“Engrossing…China continues to appeal with her herbal information and savvy sleuthing.”
Booklist (starred review)

“[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.”
Publishers Weekly


Susan’s Pinterest board for this book: research, references, resources

Click on a pin to learn more.