Title: Connect the Dots
Author: Barbara Barrett
Genre: Cozy Mystery
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, Marianne and Kat—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.
Half an hour later, Micki made her way through the parking lot to Campbell’s store. Serendipity Hardware was located adjacent to one of the town’s older strip malls. Although its prices were slightly higher, or so Micki had heard, locals flocked there because it was nearer than the bigger home improvement stores several miles away.
A man in his thirties of about medium height bent over a computer behind the counter. “I’d like to speak to Campbell White,” Micki told him.
“Wouldn’t we all. He was here earlier, got a call and told me to hold down the fort; he’d be back within the hour. That was three hours ago.”
Micki’s palms began to itch. Why would someone who couldn’t spare her even a half hour because his business was supposedly tying him down now be gone from that business for several hours? “Did he say where he was going?”
“Even if I knew, I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling a stranger.”
“I’m a friend of his mother.”
“Maybe she knows then.”
She couldn’t blame him. If the situations were reversed, she, too, would be reluctant to tell someone she didn’t know her boss’s location. She thanked him and went outside to call Clarissa. No answer. It wasn’t mah jongg day, unless Clarissa was playing with a private group. Not the monthly meeting day of the Women’s Club. Micki could either give up for the day or stop by Clarissa’s condo complex. Her curiosity won.
Herrington Estates was located on one of the arterial avenues that only recently underwent development. Clarissa’s building was the last of four to be completed. Several sheriff’s cars, an EMS vehicle and two fire trucks blocked the entrance to the parking area surrounding the fourth building, her destination.
The itching of her palms that had begun back at the hardware store increased at the same time her stomach toppled into the nether regions of her abdomen. Please don’t let this be what I think it is. She parked her car as close as she could and exited, her heart banging in her chest.
She spotted a deputy about fifty feet away and headed toward him for answers. “What’s up?”
“Do you live here, ma’am?”
“Uh, no. I was coming to see someone who does. Is something wrong in the building?”
“There’s been an accident. I can’t let you pass.”
About then, the EMS vehicle came through, although it couldn’t go very fast due to all the onlookers and other cars parked willy-nilly around the area.
Unable to get any specific information from the officer, she did the next best thing and joined the group of spectators. “Anyone know what’s going on?”
A young woman in running clothes stuck her water bottle in an oversize jacket pocket. “Someone fell from the building.”
Micki’s heart lurched. “Do you know who? Someone who lives here?”
“They won’t say. That woman over there, the one talking to the deputies, is supposedly the one who found him.”
“Him? So it’s a man? Or a boy?”
“I think it’s a man, but they wouldn’t let us near enough to see,” the runner replied.
“Is he … ”
“Dead? Don’t know for sure.”
Maybe there were other balconies with defects in the building besides Clarissa’s. She’d hang around a bit longer to see what else she could learn. All she knew was that this was serious business. If the balconies were at fault, she might not have to write the article. The public would surely notice now.
“Micki?” The woman’s voice that called her was a hollow whisper of a more familiar one.
Clarissa was being led to a sheriff’s car by Rick Formero. At least it appeared to be Clarissa, although this woman’s face was streaked, makeup running, and she could barely put one foot in front of the other. She leaned into the sheriff and said something.
They stopped, and Formero gestured for Micki to join them. “Are you a friend of Mrs. White’s?”
“We play mah jongg together.”
“She’s had a terrible shock and could use a friend right now.”
“What kind of shock?”
Clarissa turned her tearful eyes toward her. “It’s Campbell. He’s dead.”
Why is your featured book a must-read?
This is a must-read book because it reads fast and it presents an intriguing plot, likeable characters and a resolution that keeps you guessing until the end. It takes place in a small town in central Florida and focuses on friendships and community. Although this is the third book in the series, it is stand-alone, although readers who want to start at the beginning can check out Craks in a Marriage, the first book in the series. The reader doesn’t need to know how to play mah jongg or even like the game to appreciate this series; mah jongg is the vehicle that frames every story. Besides solving at least one murder in every book, the series carries a long-term arc chronicling the second careers of the four protagonists as well as the romantic lives of two.
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 42 books featured in the Cozy Mystery Bookish Event:
Runs October 13 – 19, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on October 23, 2020.
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.
Connect the Dots, the third book in her “Mah Jongg Mystery” series, features four friends who seek the murderer of another mah jongg player’s husband before she is charged. 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.
Barbara is married to man she met her senior year of college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren.
Now retired, she is a resident of Florida, although she spends her summers in Iowa, her home state. She earned her B.A. degree in History from the University of Iowa and her Master’s Degree in History from Drake University.
When not in front of her laptop creating her next story, she plays mah jongg, knits and enjoys lunches with friends.
Social Media Links:
Newsletter subscription: https://subscribepage.com/BBCozies