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A Plain Vanilla Murder*

All About Vanilla… Murder and Recipes!

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.

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