Title: Flower Power
Author: Barbara Barrett
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Kat Faulkner can’t wait to relaunch her singing career at Lombardi’s Supper Club. Even mystery man Roger Flower, the new owner of the restaurant, has brought an entourage to her packed opening night. But her triumphant return to the stage is scuttled when the much-hated Flower drops dead at his table.
Her grumpy would-be boyfriend, Sheriff Rick Formero, has lectured her and her mah jongg friends every time they’ve delved into a homicide investigation. But with most of Serendipity Springs’ deputies under suspicion just for being in the same room as the victim, Rick finds himself in the unenviable position of asking Kat to help him expose a murderer.
While Kat’s pals Sydney, Marianne and Micki conduct a sneaky parallel investigation, Rick is forced to rely on Kat’s skills of observation as they sort through dozens of witnesses. With his hands in so many pots, Flower attracted a lot of enemies, but it’s not easy to find a killer in the crowd. The tension threatens to wilt Kat and Rick’s budding relationship before it has a chance to blossom. Will their forced alliance bring them closer—or closer to death?
The dinner hour wound down. The main course had been consumed, diners who weren’t on diets delighted their palates with fancy desserts, coffee and after-dinner drinks, and now most of the dinnerware and utensils had been removed.
Syd and the rest of Kat’s entourage began to stir.
“Wasn’t she supposed to go on stage a few minutes ago?” Marianne asked the group in general.
Micki, who rarely wore a wristwatch, checked Guy’s timepiece. “You’re right. I wonder what’s going on.”
“You don’t suppose she … ” Trip began.
Syd sent him a warning look. “Don’t even go there.”
“Kat would’ve texted one of us if she was having second thoughts,” Micki said.
“Then what do you suppose is … ” Beau started to say but was interrupted by the high-pitched scream of a woman across the room.
Before any of the six could get out of their seats, like the tide rushing in, several men and women surrounded the table where Roger Flower had been eating. Syd recognized a few of them as sheriff’s deputies, although they were all in street garb.
“Stay back,” one said, addressing the other curious and concerned patrons.
“It’s okay, folks. We’ve got this,” another told the quickly gathering group of onlookers.
Syd strained her neck trying to get a view. “Can you see anything through that line of enforcement types?”
“I think the scream came from the woman at Flower’s table,” Micki said.
The rest of the evening went a totally different direction than the one Syd and her friends had anticipated. Kat never did get on stage. Syd assumed she’d been confined to her dressing room when all the hubbub broke out. Instead, two deputies stayed by the victim’s table, preventing the other three guests at the table from leaving and anyone else from approaching. The wait staff were herded to the side of the room.
Shortly, one of the sheriff’s deputies went on stage and told everyone they were to remain at their tables while they figured out what had happened. Grumbling and lowered voices followed his announcement, but no one moved.
Within minutes, EMS people arrived and pronounced the man dead. Sometime later, a man in casual clothes arrived with a medical bag. Syd presumed this was the medical examiner, there to give the official word.
The deputy who had addressed the crowd earlier once again went on stage. “We have a bit of situation here, folks. Several of us are sheriff’s deputies, so don’t worry. We have this under control. But no one can leave the building until we’ve recorded all your names and contact information.”
Syd, Marianne and Micki exchanged looks. They knew what that meant, just not the specifics. Yet.
A guy at the back of the room wasn’t content with the deputy’s explanation. “What the hell kind of situation are you talking about? Did someone get food poisoning?”
The deputy who’d served as spokesperson looked to the other two deputies standing with him before replying. “There’s been a death at the table we’ve surrounded. The sheriff has been notified and is on his way here.”
Syd gazed at the others. “Does that mean what I think it means?”
“Someone at Roger Flower’s table is dead,” Marianne said.
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 fifth 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.
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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 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.
Flower Power, the fifth 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.
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