Connect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries)

by Barbara Barrett

 Be sure to scroll down to read the special GUEST POST & PHOTOS on a beautiful CRAFT BASKET by Barbara Barrett.

Connect the Dots
(Mah Jongg Mysteries)
by Barbara Barrett

About the Book

Connect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Bowker (February 2, 2019)
Paperback: 278 pages
ISBN-10: 194853214X
ISBN-13: 978-1948532143
Digital ASIN: B07NCB5199

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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Basket Making


You, dear reader, are getting an advance peak at an upcoming storyline in the Mah Jongg Mystery series. I’m always telling people none of the characters in the series, both the main characters and the secondary characters, are based on specific people. However, I do “borrow” bits and pieces from my life and from friends and acquaintances and incorporate them into new, imaginary characters, settings and events.

I recently took a three-week class in basket making as part of our town’s Lifelong Learning program. Never would I have predicted I’d be involved in an activity like this. I thought I’d reached the pinnacle of my crafting adventures when I took up patchwork quilting in my forties and more recently knitting, but apparently there was still room on the right side of my brain for one more shot at becoming an artisan. The upshot, I thoroughly enjoyed myself even though at times it felt like my hands belonged to someone else, some ancestor of homo erectus.

The first session had us weaving two pieces of one-fourth-inch-round reed cording around flat dyed half-inch slats. It was kind of like a computer binary system where everything is either 0 or 1, yes or no, except one piece of cording goes on top of the next slat and the other piece goes on the bottom, creating a twist that locks them around the slat. Some in the group compared the process to braiding, only there were only two pieces to deal with, not three. Though I made a conscious effort not to, I wound up talking to myself, saying, “this one goes up and this one goes down.” The funny thing, that mantra worked.

I did that fifteen times around, as the circumference of the basket bottom grew (mine actually got to sixteen—I’m an overachiever) and then bent the slats upward. They required frequent spritzing with a water bottle to keep them pliable. Wooden clothes pins held our efforts in place as we worked. The next step was weaving more reed slats through those slats to form the sides. I got in three rows during class and finished then next nine rows before the next class.

The task in the second session was to use a similar technique to create a square basket. This time we laid out a matrix of half-inch reed slats by pinning five to a placemat and then weaving five more through them from the opposite direction. This formed the bottom. Like we did with the round basket, we wove a quarter-inch round reed around the outside perimeter of the square to lock in the slats. We bent them upward and wove dyed quarter-inch slats through them, paying particular attention to square the corners. That last part was the most challenging, and I’m sorry to say, my corners turned out pretty rounded. My square turned out looking like a round square.

During the third session we finished off the top of each basket by turning down the tops of the slats over another slat and weaving a quarter-inch reed through them to lock it down.

Reflecting on the experience, I think I’m almost as delighted at having found another way to produce something beautiful (attractive, anyhow) with my own hands as having a new basket for functional use when I’m finished. That feeling, not quite euphoria but let’s call it high level satisfaction, is priceless, the kind of personal achievement that makes life a little more worth living. Amazing how a little handiwork can send one’s spirits soaring.

I want to replicate that feeling in a future story for one of my protagonists. No idea yet how, but I’m filing this class away in my brain for when I need it.


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One thought on “Connect the Dots (Mah Jongg Mysteries)

  1. Thanks so much for having me here today. I wrote this article before I finished the class. The second basket, supposedly a square, turned out to be much more difficult. If I can figure out how to post a picture of the final products, I will.

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