Friday, August 9, 2019

Plain Vanilla BORING by Susan Wittig Albert

"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. Just. Plain. BORING. Book.
As many who frequent my book blog know, I love and adore Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series. My loyalty for the series' is boundless. I love the mysteries, small town setting and herb shop hook. Most of all, I love the business owner/attorney duality of China Bayles' character. This series has gotten me through some hard times, as well as joyous times. So, in essence, I’m pretty tied and committed. Nothing but excitement comes out of reading a new title in this series.
Yet, here I am reading through the 27th latest entry into the series darn near sleep. A Plain Vanilla Murder was a complete and total bore! There's no way around it. I halfway want to believe Albert was trying to get back into plotting a light murder mystery. Because in the previous two books she veered away from doing so. But man, oh man. She veered Vanilla over a ravine and into a compose heap. Straight-up boredom. Still, let me get into what I found aggravating and boring about A Plain Vanilla Murder.

1. The subject of vanilla (plant history and all) was kind of overdone. Granted, this series always focuses on a plant or herb surrounding per book. But in this one… wow…. She went over the necessary degrees. The subject of vanilla had its own storyline. Sure it was cool to know more vanilla. But my goodness, what about adding some flavor to the characters and especially the plot.
2. Way too much of the character of Shelia Dawson (or as they annoyingly nickname her, “Smart Cookie”). Half of the murder mystery investigating contains China’s first-person. The other in Sheriff Shelia’s third-person. A very pregnant Shelia Dawson who, every other page, is running to the restroom. ANNOYING! No shade to pregnant women, but the whole time I wished Shelia would go sit her ass down somewhere. For the life of me, I don't know why Albert insist on pushing Shelia on readers. She's cool and all. But if the lady is about to pop a baby out, let her ass be. Why insist on contriving a plot where she must stubbornly prove how she can still perform sheriff duties during her third trimester? And then keep coloring the fact that she has to seek a restroom quickly after each suspect interview? Repetitive and just plain boring having to read about Shelia's swollen feet and bladder and struggles with seat belts! And she's been pregnant for over multiple books now! We get it! She can still do her job! Now no more of this!
Keeping this short, those were the two points that irked me most. Anything outside of that was plain–for sure. The character of China was flat, as her tenacity and wit seemed absent in favor of Shelia's problems. The pacing was sluggish, as it consisted of interviewing suspect after suspect. The prologue was the most exciting part of the book. It began with a professor and six of his students (as well as guide) driving through the jungles of Mexico. Then finding themselves at gunpoint, before fleeing over a cliff. I thought we were getting somewhere until the words CHAPTER ONE cropped up.
The rest: pure boredom. No other way or words around it.

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