Craks in a Marriage (Mah Jongg Mysteries) by Barbara Barrett, guest post, spotlight & giveaway

Craks in a Marriage (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
by Barbara Barrett

About the Book

Craks in a Marriage (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Florida
Self Published (February 6, 2018)
Print Length: 204 pages

When Sydney Bonner overhears a fellow mah jongg player arguing on the phone with her husband, she realizes the couple’s “perfect marriage” isn’t all it appears to be. A few days later, the husband is found dead, his head bashed in. Fearing she’ll be considered the most likely suspect, the widow prevails upon Sydney and her three friends—Marianne, Kat and Micki—to find out who really killed him.

Though none of these four fun-loving, take-charge retirees has any training as detectives, the women agree to launch a secret investigation. As they dig under the happy veneer of their community’s social life, they find more than enough suspects, from shady ladies to resentful golf buddies, to keep them looking over their shoulders.

Could the murderer be lurking among the talent in a chaotic production put on by Sydney’s husband, who will do anything to keep busy in retirement? Could the sheriff, who may have more than a professional interest in chanteuse Kat, end up pinning the crime on the women instead? Each discovery during their investigations and their weekly mah jongg game keeps them running as they close in on the killer—but the killer may also be closing in on them.

Guest Post

Why Retirees?

I like to describe the Mah Jongg Mystery series as “The Golden Girls become Jessica Fletcher,” but I wasn’t sure if anyone under fifty would recognize the reference. Thanks to TV reruns, I probably don’t have to worry. Both TV shows have become cultural icons. The thing is, I couldn’t find a more recent example that fit this series. The closest I could come was “The Women’s Murder Club” by James Patterson, which aired from 2007-2008. But they weren’t retirees; in fact, their various occupations (a homicide detective, an assistant district attorney, a chief medical examiner and a newspaper crime reporter) are the fabric of their crime-solving stories. 

When I decided to write Craks in a Marriage, the first book in this cozy mystery series, I wanted my characters to be a group of older women, all retirees. Why? For a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I’m a retiree also, and after eleven contemporary romance novels and one novella, all featuring main characters in their thirties and forties, I wanted to write about my world. Retirement has gone well for me, for the most part. I’ve been happier than I ever dreamed might be the case. I loved my career in human resource management, but it was only after I retired that I felt I could be completely me. I wanted to incorporate those feelings into my writing. 

There are other discoveries about retirement I wanted to share as well. The most obvious change from work life to retirement is time. This may seem obvious, but you really don’t realize it until it happens. You no longer are bound to a schedule. You can do what you want when you want. The trick is to figure out what it is you want. I knew immediately; I wanted more time to write. I wanted at least one of my books to be published. That’s not the case for Trip Bonner, the spouse of one my amateur sleuths, Sydney Bonner. At least not yet. In this first book, he commits to overseeing a follies fundraiser as his way of filling his time when not on the golf course. 

Time also shapes the lifestyle of my protagonists. Two of them are pursuing new careers. Kat Faulkner, the most laid-back member of the quartet by day, by night emerges as a vivacious chanteuse at local . Micki Demetrius, a former English teacher, free-lances op-ed pieces. All four play mah jongg weekly.   

Though they don’t seek murders to investigate, their connections to locals keeps bringing them into the vortex of homicide, and they have the time to do it.

Retirement also means more time for family and friends. Sydney and her friend, Marianne’s, spouses don’t always notice their wives involvement in crimesolving because they spend so much time together anyhow not only playing mah jongg, but also at the local coffee shop, or shopping or at the Women’s Club, etc. 

On the other hand, there are other factors in retirement that also must be mentioned: aging and health issues. All four women are experiencing the graying of their hair. One is already gray, two are graying and the third will only allow a white streak in her dark hair. The victim, the husband of one of their mah jongg friends, has been cheating on his wife, most likely because he saw himself getting up in years. A health issue plays an important role in eliminating one of the suspects. 


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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 has 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.

Craks in a Marriage, the first 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.

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 a 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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