Title: Courtesy Call
Author: Barbara Barrett
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Katrina Faulkner hurts almost as much as the man in her life when he loses his bid to be reelected sheriff. But for the first time since she met Rick Formero, she’s not worried about him being in peril—until he’s drafted to help solve the fiery murder of the man who beat him at the polls.
While the Serendipity Springs police department is in chaos, it’s up to Kat and her mah jongg pals to step in as Rick’s unofficial staff to unravel the crime. As the tips roll in and suspects multiply, it appears the late sheriff led a complicated life, with ties to the same sketchy gambling toughs he was supposed to be arresting. But no one’s taking bets on who’s to blame for his death.
Syd is planning a mah jongg tournament, Marianne is writing a play and journalist Micki can’t wait to get her hands on the juicy story. But when the chips are down, they and the men in their lives are up to the task of helping Kat and Rick delve into the world of high-stakes gambling in pursuit of an elusive killer—even if they’re rolling the dice on danger.
“Will we be considered suspects since we worked so hard to keep him from getting elected?” Marianne asked the other three, who’d gathered in her kitchen to discuss the sudden death of Jett Carmody shortly after Micki texted them all.
“At one time or another during and after the election, we all may have wanted him out of the picture, although not dead,” Syd replied. “But none of us has a strong enough motive.”
Her last words prompted all three of them to switch their attention to Kat, whose man actually did have a motive. “I didn’t get a chance to talk much with Rick after I got your text, Micki. Apparently he already knew something was up, although he didn’t say how. But he took off right after that without saying where he was going or when he’d be back.” She caught their looks of surprise. “No, he didn’t leave town, if that’s what you’re thinking. Rick wouldn’t run away from his problems, but above all, he wouldn’t kill the man who took his job.”
“None of us thought that,” Micki said, sending a look of disapproval at Syd and Marianne. “Actually, I was thinking maybe the powers that be called him in to consult.”
Kat had been thinking the same thing, even though Rick hadn’t said a thing.
“This is weird,” Micki said. “For the first time since we’ve gotten ourselves involved in murder investigations, we won’t be negotiating what we can and cannot do with Rick. In fact, I don’t know if I’d even want to solve this one. I shouldn’t say that about another human being, but Carmody was not a nice guy.”
Syd nodded her head. “True, but think back on the other homicides we’ve looked into. Most of those victims were not nice people either.”
“Probably why they were killed in the first place,” Marianne said.
Micki pulled a strand of hair behind her ear. “You don’t think we’ll get asked to help, do you?”
Syd snorted. “Our known association with Rick, which we made a point to emphasize during the election, pretty much precludes that possibility.”
“Good,” Marianne said. “This time we sit back, lead our own lives and watch someone else try to find the guilty party. Let them discover how difficult it is.”
“Uh, if you recall, that’s pretty much what Rick kept telling us when he was in office, that his people were trained to find the guilty party and they already knew how difficult it was,” Kat said.
Micki scowled. “There are times I wish you weren’t so logical.”
“Look on the bright side. Just yesterday we all listed what we could now work on in our personal lives.”
Micki sighed. “Yeah, I know. But working with Guy on his research project doesn’t appeal quite as much now that there’s another murder to write about.”
“Didn’t you promise him no more dangerous stories?” Marianne asked.
Micki considered. “Actually, I think I recall saying something like I’d ‘cut back’ on that type of article.”
“Micki!” Kat cried. “Are you trying to sabotage that relationship?”
“No, of course not. But think about it. Carmody was a public figure, therefore the public has the right to know who killed him and why.”
“For the sake of discussion, how do you plan to get the inside story on this?” Syd asked her.
“We may have stepped on a few toes in the department, but we also made a few friends, like Pilar Martinez and Brian Quinn, who could be great contacts.”
“That place is such a hotbed of turmoil right now,” Kat said, “I can’t see anyone turning to outsiders with information. Instead, I see them closing ranks.”
“It can’t hurt to try,” Micki replied, her determination obvious.
Kat worried how Guy would react when he learned Micki was back on the crime-solving beat, but that was their business. She would have her hands full with Rick’s reaction to this murder. He’d sworn off law enforcement for the rest of his life. Or so he thought. There was no way he’d be able to keep his distance with Carmody out of the picture.
“I should probably get back home so I’m there when Rick returns.”
“How’s the fishing-rod business coming?” Marianne asked. “Loved the photo of your front porch. Where’d you put all that stuff?”
“It’s still there waiting for a new home. Last night, I thought we’d settled on Rick moving his entire workshop to his garage, but with this new development, who knows?”
“Keep us posted,” Syd told her. “I have time on my hands, in case you need help.”
Syd only had time on her hands because she hadn’t started the reno on Kat’s ranch yet. Why was Syd dragging her feet on this project? Whatever, couldn’t worry about that now.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
This is the ninth book in the Mah Jongg Mystery series? Like to start with the first book in a series and work your way forward? You can always do that too, but in case you like to keep current, this is the one. It could very well be the last in the series. The author hasn’t decided yet. But just in case, read how the many threads followed in the first eight books begin to come together in Courtesy Call. The author has used a Mah Jongg term for every one of the series’ nine titles. When it came time to imagine a story using the term “courtesy,” it took a stretch of the imagination until the phrase “Courtesy Call” came to mind, but once it landed, it couldn’t have been a better way to address the death of the man who beat the heroine’s man in the recent Sheriff’s election. After months of surviving his defeat, now the heroine’s guy and former sheriff is faced with finding his opponent’s murderer. If you’ve ever had to move on after a devastating blow to your life, read how this couple and their friends follow their own road to recovery.
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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 in human resources for Iowa State Government. After releasing eleven full-length romance novels and two novellas, 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.
Courtesy Call, the ninth 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 appear in all nine books in the series.
Barbara is a member of Sisters in Crime, Sinc-Iowa and Florida STAR Fiction Writers.
She is married to the 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, travels and enjoys lunches with friends.
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