Thursday, April 25, 2019

Connect the Dots - A Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Micki Demetrius to the blog today. You can find Micki on the pages of the Mah Jongg Mystery series by Barbara Barrett. CONNECT THE DOTS is the third book in the series and was released earlier this week.

My name is Micki Demetrius. I used to teach English in a private high school back East. It took a few years to learn how to survive in that rarified environment, but eventually I caught on. Generally, there were two types of students: those who were there because at their parents’ dictate or those there on scholarship. Not all of that first group acted like they were privileged, although there were enough. I learned a lot about myself during those days. How to keep my cool and not let the little monsters get the better of me. How to make English lit appeal to young minds with teaching methods related to their world—which meant learning how to text with my thumbs, keeping up with the latest rapper’s music and interpreting their private language to stay on top of their thinking. How to tell parents diplomatically their darlings were flunking.

I was married for ten years of that time. His name was Ignatius Demetrius, or “Iggy.” His best point was his charm. The man could talk me into anything, including loaning him money for his numerous business schemes, which I later discovered were usually disguised covers for his gambling debts. That was the reason I eventually called it quits. I haven’t really had another serious relationship since, not that I’m anti-men, I’m just much pickier these days.

My nest egg wasn’t what it could have been when I retired, thanks to my numerous loans to Iggy. Whatever path I took needed to be on a shoestring. I wanted a new start, new horizons to conquer. So I journeyed south to central Florida and the town of Serendipity Springs. After careful review of my finances and wise investing, I bought a one-bedroom condo and began pursuing a lifelong dream of being a journalist. Freelance, reporting to no one, writing about whatever topic appealed to me. The down side, however, was no guarantee of a steady income. Barely an income at all. But isn’t that what retirement’s supposed to be about? Following your heart in your later years.

But there was more to the down side. I have expensive tastes; I love designer clothes, gourmet dinners, theater and musical concerts. My teaching job had allowed me to indulge every so often, not much, but enough to satisfy my hunger until the next need to indulge. But now that I was living on my pension and limited savings, the chance to indulge came less frequently.

Then I met Katrina Faulkner. Kat. She had relocated to the sunshine state from the Midwest. She’d spent the better part of her life as an executive assistant to a CEO of a manufacturing concern and then caring for her ailing mother. Unlike me, though, Kat got lucky with the lottery. Unless she buys another nation, her winnings will keep her comfortable the rest of her life. We met playing Mah Jongg. Kat’s frugal where I’m not. I get my kicks helping her chip away at her bank account, especially updating her wardrobe.

I made two other great friends through Mah Jongg, Sydney Bonner and Marianne Putnam. Unlike Kat and me, both are married. Happily married for years to two pretty great guys. Even I approve of them. Besides our weekly games, we spend a lot of time together, sometimes no more than meeting at a local coffee shop or going out to lunch.

In recent months, we’ve also found ourselves drawn into murder investigations. Us. Imagine. Four retired women who know nothing about law enforcement procedures facing off with murderers. We didn’t seek this type of excitement. Those affected by the murders, usually our Mah Jongg friends, have prevailed upon us to look into other potential suspects on the down low, to gather the kind of intel the authorities either can’t obtain or dismiss.

Strangely enough, we’ve been successful. Well, not entirely on our own. We’ve had the begrudging help of the sheriff’s department as our safety cushion. Guess it doesn’t hurt that Sheriff Formero is sweet on Kat. Her involvement in these things frustrates him no end, but he tolerates us because we somehow manage to uncover vital information about the killer. He’ll never admit that, at least he hasn’t so far.

Recently, I wrote an article describing the numerous construction problems a friend had with her new condo. Before I got very far with my interviews, her son fell from her balcony and was killed. She was overtaken by her grief. The four of us did what we could to help, but she insisted he’d been murdered.

When medical evidence finally proved her right, my role should have ended. I tried to steer clear of the murder part. Really. Especially after the sheriff told me to stay out of it. But circumstances kept testing my good intentions; trouble kept following my friend. Like her son’s pregnant ex-girlfriend my friend didn’t even know existed, or a shady real estate agent who kept pushing her to sell her son’s business at a loss and further issues with her new temporary home. I couldn’t very well abandon her. How was I supposed to know the murderer considered me a threat?

I enjoyed being a teacher, but my life is so much richer now that I live in Serendipity Springs and have such wonderful friends who get me. Come, visit us and sign on for one of our adventures.



CONNECT THE DOTS by Barbara Barrett
The Third Mah Jongg Mystery

Micki Demetrius is surprised when fellow Mah Jongg player Clarissa asks to speak with her privately. After all, they don't know each other that well and aren't particularly close. When Clarissa tells her of all the structural issues with her new condo, added to the fact that neither she, nor her son have been able to get any help, Micki's journalistic nose smells a story. Clarissa can't even go on her balcony as it's deemed unsafe! Micki agrees to investigate and not only get answers for Clarissa, but get her condo repaired. When the two arrive at Herrington Estates they find it swarming with police and medical personnel. Clarissa's son had fallen to his death from her balcony. The police see it as a terrible accident, but Clarissa knows he never would have gone out on a balcony he knew could give way at any moment. Is it just a mother's grief, or could the Mah Jongg friends once again be involved in murder?

Mah Jongg friends, Micki, Kat, Syd, and Marianne, are each dealing with various issues in this third Mah Jongg Mystery. Syd is off on the sidelines taking care of her grandchildren while Marianne discovers a void in her life and is searching for something that's just for her. Micki takes the lead role here, using her journalistic skills to help their friend with Kat as her primary backup. Kat also has her own story line going as the Sheriff looks to move their romance along whilst she has second thoughts. Needless to say, there's a lot going on here.

I enjoyed being back with the Mah Jongg ladies. Although it wouldn't advance the plot, I would have liked to see more Mah Jongg being played. The snippets shared were not only fun, but pertinent to the story. I appreciate the way Barbara Barrett treats her main characters. They may be senior citizens, but they're not caricatures. They're not dotty old ladies, they're real women who have lived a bit. The book, in fact the whole series, focuses on how the lives of mature women change and evolve, learning to be self sufficient after depending on others, finding new meaning in life, deciding to trust again, and more. And how solving murders can keep the mind active.

CONNECT THE DOTS takes a hard look at construction and real estate today and how greed, dirty politics, and bad business practices can cause irreparable damage. Lesson one, never sign a document indicating everything is fine with your house until you've had it checked by your own home inspector! CONNECT THE DOTS is a well plotted mystery that highlights many important issues faced not only by women of mature years, but everyone.


Connect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries) by Barbara Barrett

About the Book

Cozy Mystery 3rd in Series  
Bowker (February 2, 2019)  
Paperback: 278 pages
How could a thirty-something man fall to his death from a fourth-floor balcony he knows is defective? That’s the question freelance writer Micki Demetrius is asked to answer by the man’s grieving mother, Clarissa White, who refuses to believe his death was an unfortunate accident. But when the authorities determine it was homicide, Micki is shut out of her investigative efforts.
Giving up is easier said than done for Micki. She can’t resist a mystery, and suspicious characters won’t leave Clarissa alone, from the woman claiming a stake in the victim’s life to a cagey character who wants his business. As the threat to Clarissa grows, Micki feels compelled to help her in spite of the danger.
Micki’s three mah jongg pals—Sydney Bonner, Marianne Putnam and Katrina, Kat, Faulkner—are drawn into the mystery, but the retirees have their own challenges. Syd and husband Trip do grandparent duty while their daughter deals with marital issues. Marianne “finds herself” by writing a one-act play. And Kat must decide how public to go with her growing friendship with the sheriff. Together, they must connect the dots in a nefarious web of greed, neglect, secrecy and murder.

About the Author

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.

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The author has graciously offered an e-copy of CONNECT THE DOTS. Simply leave a comment on this post no later than 11:59pm Eastern Friday, April 26, 2019 telling us if you've ever played Mah Jongg and if so which version. The ladies here play the American version, while I've tried the Japanese version, Riichi. Please leave your e-mail address so that I can contact you should your comment be picked. Also, if you're having trouble posting, try using Firefox as your browser.


  1. My Grandmother taught me and all of my sisters how to play Mah Jongg at a very early age, and we still play it today. Hers is a Chinese version that a friend had brought her from China, and the tiles are beautiful and made of wood and ivory. It has a tiny dice shaker and an even tinier wooden slide box to hold these very small dice.

  2. I am not familiar with Mah Jongg but it sounds like it would be interesting to learn how to play. Thank you for including Barbara Barrett and her book on your blog. robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com

  3. I played the Japanese version of Mag Jongg.

  4. I've played once but don't know what version. doward1952(at)yahoo(dot)com

  5. No I have never played! lindaherold999(at)gmail(dot)com