Mystery and Mah Jongg

Today Marianne Putnam is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Jokers Wild, the latest novel in the Mah Jongg mystery series.

Welcome, Marianne. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.

My name is Marianne Putnam and I am one of the four protagonists who live in the Mah Jongg Mystery series. I take the lead role in Jokers Wild. The four of us, all women, all retired, live in the central Florida town of Serendipity Springs. We met a few years back as we were learning to play the game of Mah Jongg. The Springs is a new town, a little over twenty years old, so most of its residents have come from places other than this state. My husband, Beau, and I came from a small town in Pennsylvania where I was a pharmacist and he was a botanist for a nursery. My friends, Sydney Bonner, Micki Demetrius and Katrina Faulkner and I enjoy each other’s company beyond our weekly Mah Jongg game, even if it’s just to chat and drink beverages at our local coffee shop. However, in the last couple years we’ve found ourselves solving local murders. It started when one of our Mah Jongg friends prevailed upon us to discover who murdered her husband. At the time, once we “helped” the sheriff solve that one we thought our days as amateur sleuths were over, especially since one of us had a close run-in with death before we resolved the case. But our reputation spread, and more and more cases fell into our hands.     

Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?

My writer identifies with me more than my three friends (or so I think) because we’re both short, and we both tend to be analytical thinkers, although I’m the one with the scientific background and hers in American history. In an earlier book in the series, I voiced my discontent with my life despite the fact that I had a loving husband, beautiful home, great friends and we were reasonably fixed financially so we didn’t have to worry about our livelihood. She listened and let me discover an interest of hers that she’d set aside in order to give herself enough time to write: one-act plays. I took a class for seniors at our local community center and realized I’d found what I’d been seeking. I’ve continued to write them and submit them to various contests. In this book, I’ve just learned I won the local contest and they are planning to produce my play, “Jokers Wild.”

How did you evolve as the main character?

Actually, all four of us are the main character in each book in the series, although we take turns assuming the lead role. That honor first fell to me in Book 4, Beware the East Wind. In Book 2, Bamboozled, my husband, Beau and I checked out a wannabe chef by hiring him to prepare a fancy dinner for us; that went well until he imbibed a little too much of the wine meant for us. We never did get that dinner.

Each of us brings different strengths to the table (and not just the Mah Jongg table), which is what makes us such an effective investigative team. As I told you earlier, I’m considered the analyst in the group. But I’m not totally an introvert. I’m good with people, especially when it comes to interrogation, although Kat’s the empathetic one. I’m also the domestic one; I love to cook and I’m a pretty good housekeeper. I can’t stand a messy house (unlike my writer). I once again emerge in the lead role in Book 6, Jokers Wild; I even find the body, which makes me a suspect in the sheriff’s eyes, although by now, he knows me well enough not to take that seriously. Nonetheless, I don’t get to participate in the investigation, although fate has a way of pulling you in anyway.  

What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?

Like I said earlier, as the story starts, I’ve just learned that my one-act is going to be put on by the local community theater. They have even invited me to sit in on rehearsals, although I don’t have any say in who’s selected for the roles or production crew. I shortly discover I don’t like the New York “professional” who’s been brought in to direct. No one does, actually, not even his wife. Then, just minutes before curtains up, she and I find his body floating lifelessly in their pool.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?

Jokers Wild is a standalone book; you don’t have to have read the first five books in the series in order to enjoy this one (although have at it, if you’d like to start with Book 1 and work you way up). Nor do you have to know how to play Mah Jongg or even like the game. It serves as the backdrop vehicle that got us together and keeps us going week after week.

To learn more about me and my three friends, as well as our little community, subscribe to my author’s newsletter at and receive a free link to download the introduction to our series, The Mistresses of Mah Jongg.

Thank you for answering my questions, Marianne, and good luck to you and your author, Barbara Barrett, with Jokers Wild, the latest book in the Mah Jongg mystery series.

Readers can learn more about Marianne and her author, Barbara Barrett by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook and Goodreads pages. You can also follow her on Twitter (

The novel is available at online at Amazon

About Barbara Barrett: Barbara 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.

Author Barbara Barrett. Photo by Chris Kridler,

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.

Jokers Wild, the sixth 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.

Barbara is a member of Sisters in Crime, Sinc-Iowa, Romance Writers of America and the SpacecoasT chapter of Romance Writers of America.

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.


About Dianne Ascroft

I'm a Canadian writer and author, living in Britain. My first novel, 'Hitler and Mars Bars' was released in March 2008. More information abo
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2 Responses to Mystery and Mah Jongg

  1. Thank you so much for inviting Marianne and me to appear on your blog today. Character interviews are always valuable to me, because I gives me a chance to explore my characters’ personalities in ways that may not have presented themselves in the stories yet. I love all four of my protagonists, but Marianne holds a special place in my heart, although I’m not into cooking and housekeeping to the same degree she is.


  2. Pingback: Jokers Wild by Barbara Barrett Book Spotlight - Christy's Cozy Corners

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