Meet Barbara – Author, Mah Jongg Enthusiast and Breast Cancer Survivor

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. There are now nine books in her Mah Jongg Mysteries series, and the first five were issued in digital box form in 2022. Not only has the game of Mah Jongg been a great social outlet, it has also helped keep her mind active when not writing. 


Author Barbara Barrett


August 23 – Stephanie Caruso’s book blog, 52 Cozy

May 7, 2023 – MahjCon – YouTube, Conversations with Mah Jongg Community Experts and Entrepreneurs

2023 Left Coast Crime Mystery Conference,  El Conquistador Resort Tucson, AZ  –  Thursday, March 16 at 5:00 – 5:45 – Mysteries with Romance Panel   

December 22, 2022 – Literary Escapes with Becki I talk about holiday-themed cozy mysteries

June 16, 2022 – Literary Escapes with Becki I talk about cozy mysteries and my newest series Nailed It.

January 24, 2022 – Mah Jongg Mondays podcast I talk about how I was introduced to Mah Jongg and how it saved my sanity.

August 25, 2021 – Tart Words Podcast  I talk about my inspiration for my cozy mystery series.

Her second series, the Nailed It Home Reno Mysteries, was launched in 2022. Snared by the Snake, Book 6 in the series, was released in June 2023. Book 7, a holiday read and tentatively titled Wrenched by the Reindeer Run, is slated for release in October 2023. 

Though not an interior designer, that occupation has always fascinated Barbara. Her father was a carpenter and her husband has his own woodworking business. Exposure to their work got her interested in watching numerous home improvement shows on HGTV, which resulted in the creation of Rowena Summerfield and her daughter, Valerie Kowalski. Ro and Val are an amalgam of several HGTV hosts. Barbara used that combination of personality traits for Ro and turned her into a female sleuth who rehabs older houses. 

The series features Rowena Summerfield, a retired homicide investigator who teams up with her daughter, Valerie Kowalski, to start their own home renovation business. After struggling to keep afloat the first few years, they are now building a solid reputation even though every so often Ro’s former partner prevails upon her to help him solve his latest murder case.

Barbara has also published nine books to date in the Mah Jongg Mystery series. More books in the series are planned for 2024. She learned how to play the game when she retired and moved to Florida as a way to meet others and fell in love with it so much, she not only uses it as the linchpin of this series, she has taught others how to play and has been known to play twice a week when in Florida.

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, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren. 

Now retired, she is a resident of Florida, although she spends her summers in Iowa, her home state and her new home in Minnesota. She earned her B.A. degree in History from the University of Iowa and her Master’s Degree in History from Drake University. She is also proud to say she is a twenty-one year breast cancer survivor.

When not in front of her laptop creating her next story, she plays mah jongg, watches TV detective shows and enjoys lunches with friends. 

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Free Download of Mistresses of Mah Jongg Introduction

Are you ready to meet the mistresses of mah jongg? Download your free introduction to my fan favorite mystery series.


Four retired senior sleuths augment their weekly mah jongg game investigating homicides in their small central Florida community of Serendipity Springs even though they occasionally are at odds with the local sheriff.

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