Release Date: Jun 4, 2019
Series: China Bayles Mystery
Publisher: Persevero Press
China Bayles and her best friend and business partner, Ruby Wilcox, are excited to be leading a workshop about vanilla. However, it does bring back some unhappy memories about the death of one of their former employees who died on a trip to the same Mexican vanilla-growing area that China had also visited. It’s been a couple of years since that ill-fated trip and now China’s friend Sheila Dawson, the chief of police, is called in to investigate the suspicious death of the professor who had lead the trip to Mexico. Sheila is a great investigator, and with China’s help, they are determined to learn the truth.
This book is partially narrated in the first person by China and is partially told in the third person from Sheila’s point of view. China’s chapters are told in a casual, friendly style, like she’s talking to an old friend. Since they are in the third person, Sheila’s chapters don’t have the same warmth, but still allow the reader to get to know Sheila better. I like seeing things through the eyes of the two different characters since it gives a complete view of the investigation. I have read almost all of the books in this long-running series and as expected, the author has done a lot of research on vanilla, which plays a large role in the main plot. I didn’t need all of the details that were included, but it was interesting to learn how much goes into producing vanilla and why it’s so expensive. There are a couple of recipes throughout the book and then even more at the end that show different ways to use vanilla beans.
There were plenty of suspects and possible motives in this book. I like that Sheila and China each gathered information individually and then compared notes to find out what really happened to the professor. Just as China and her friend Ruby’s skills complement each other in their various business ventures, Sheila and China’s different investigative styles work to help them solve the case. Although I’ve read most of the books in this series, I think new readers would enjoy the book just as much as those who follow the series. Fans of Ellery Adams or J.A. Jance will enjoy reading Plain Vanilla Murder.