By Barbara Barrett
Mah Jongg Mysteries #2
Self Published, 2018
Essential oils distributor Dorcas Wiley is the boss everyone loves to hate. So when she turns up dead, killed by her own trophy, disgruntled saleswoman Cathy Broderick is the obvious suspect in her murder. Despite opportunity, motive and incriminating evidence, Cathy declares her innocence and enlists her mah jongg pals—Sydney Bonner and her cronies Marianne, Micki and Kat—to help save her from the death penalty.
Hot off a recent and nearly deadly investigation, the women are cautious about putting themselves in peril again. Syd’s spouse isn’t thrilled about another mystery in their lives, either, but he can’t resist the plea of Cathy’s husband. Soon, Syd is leading the way as they tangle with grumpy salespeople, the victim’s estranged husband and boyfriend, a mysterious housekeeper, a litigious customer, an annoyed sheriff and Cathy’s own arrogant lawyer.
The women have their own issues to deal with in their central Florida town of Serendipity Springs. Kat faces a health challenge, Micki fields a mysterious inquiry from her ex, Marianne has a chaotic anniversary and Syd wrestles with her husband over who’s really in charge. But nothing puts everyday life into perspective like the moment when their investigation brings them face to face with danger.
Bamboozled is the first mystery I’ve read by Barbara Barrett, and I definitely enjoyed it. Visiting the central Florida of Serendipiy Springs through the author’s eyes brought back fun memories of many family vacations. This story/series is different from most cozy mysteries that I read, and in this case, that difference is very good.
For one thing, the storyline is built around four friends of early retirement years who play mah jongg together and share a unique bond in each other’s lives, beautifully combining elements of cozy mystery and women’s fiction genres. Relationship drama is something I really enjoy, and there’s plenty of that with things such as a cancer diagnosis, a divorced husband contacting his ex-wife, etc. The only thing I wished for was more character depth, as I liked these ladies and their husbands, but never felt that I really came to know them – their thoughts, emotions, past experiences, both good and bad – all the things that make them who they are today.
The game of mah jongg was also an intriguing touch. As I’ve only played it on my computer, I have no idea how the physical game works, but it was fun to imagine. In fact, I go through occasional spells of near addiction to the game!
And of course, murder investigation becomes a part of their activities. While everyone does their part in seeking answers, Syd and her husband, Trip, took the lead in this story. I liked how the questioning was logical and well thought out, and had no clue as to the killer’s identity.
I really enjoyed Bamboozled and appreciated that there was very little, if any, profanity. I look forward to seeing how the series progresses.
I received a copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Barbara Barrett started reading mysteries when she was pregnant with her first child to keep her mind off things like her changing body and food cravings. When she’d devoured as many Agatha Christies as she could find, she branched out to English village cozies and Ellery Queen.
Later, to avoid a midlife crisis, she began writing fiction at night when she wasn’t at her day job as a human resources analyst for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and one novella, she returned to the cozy mystery genre, using one of her retirement pastimes, the game of mah jongg, as her inspiration. Not only has it been a great social outlet, it has also helped keep her mind active when not writing.
Bamboozled, the second book in her “Mah Jongg Mystery” series, features four friends who play mah jongg together and share otherwise in each other’s lives. None of the four is based on an actual person. Each is an amalgamation of several mah jongg friends with a lot of Barbara’s imagination thrown in for good measure. The four will continue to appear in future books in the series.
Anticipating the day when she would write her first mystery, she has been a member of the Mystery/Romantic Suspense chapter of Romance Writers of America for over a decade. She credits them with helping her hone her craft.
Barbara is married to the man she met her senior year of college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren.
Barbara Barrett is graciously offering a digital copy of Bamboozled to one of you. To enter the drawing, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment on this blog post. And I just have to ask … Do any of you play mah jongg? I discovered the game on my computer and quickly became addicted, although I only win the “easy” formats.
BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Tuesday, July 10. Winner will be chosen by random.org and contacted by e-mail.
Eligibility: US residents