When the man in her life, Rick Formero, loses his bid for reelection in Palmetto County, Florida, Katrina Faulkner hurts along with him at his disappointment, yet this means for the first time in their relationship he’ll no longer be in law enforcement and she won’t have to worry about him constantly being in danger. Then the new sheriff, Jett Carmody, is murdered after just a few months on the job. The new interim sheriff, Rick’s former main deputy, has his hands full bringing order to the chaos his predecessor fomented on the sheriff’s staff, so the county asks Rick to step in as a consultant to track down his opponent’s murderer.
Unlike the previous homicides Kat has worked on solving, this time Rick is open to her three friends and their men helping, because he’s no longer on the force and he needs assistance. But this will be tricky because Carmody was suspected of having ties to illegal gambling. Was the sheriff killed because he was too close to someone on the other side of the law? How can this group of amateur sleuths deal with them?
When her three friends aren’t monitoring tip lines about the murder, one plans a fundraising mah jongg tournament while she struggles to devise a design plan for Kat’s living room at her ranch, another begins a new one-act play and the other helps her attorney boyfriend with legal research. While they track down possible suspects connected to the world of high stakes gambling, Kat and Rick check out Carmody’s questionable relations with his half-siblings.
The Mah Jongg Mysteries Book 9
By Barbara Barrett
They walked back into the house hand in hand, Kat relieved to have hopefully found a tentative solution and Rick unusually quiet.
His changed mood did not go unnoticed, especially since he’d referred to something being on his mind when he first returned home. She took a deep breath. “What was on your mind when you first got here that sent you to the computer?”
He chewed a lip. “Let’s go in the study.”
Once there, he shut the door. “Not that I suspect Greta of anything, but I want to keep this just between the two of us.”
“This isn’t to be shared with your three friends. Do you understand?”
“Yes, but you’re scaring me, Rick. What’s going on?”
“That’s part of the problem. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m talking about the sheriff’s department.”
“We both know Carmody is trouble, but has something more happened to reinforce that view?”
“First off, as I was checking out at the lumberyard, who should show up other than Jett Carmody, purportedly there to check out disappearing inventory, although he mainly busied himself examining some of the remaining inventory.”
“You didn’t have a run-in with him?” she asked too fast.
“He couldn’t resist commenting on my changed state of affairs. But don’t worry. It wasn’t worth tangling with him.”
“Probably a good response.”
“Anyway, after I finished at the second lumberyard, I met Quinn at his request. He’s concerned about some things going on in the department since I left, but he doesn’t have solid proof yet, and he doesn’t know who he can trust to talk to about it.”
Even though she’d hurt along with Rick after the election results, she’d also been relieved he was no longer part of the toxic environment the sheriff’s department had devolved into. This new information made her stomach wrench. But Rick needed her to be strong for him. “I’m sorry to hear this, but what can you do? You’re no longer part of the department.”
“That’s what I had to tell Quinn, as hard as it was.”
“You’re still involved though, aren’t you?” She hated putting it into words, but it needed to be said.
He didn’t reply at once. “Yes.” His voice had grown quiet. “I told you this much so you wouldn’t think there was a problem between the two of us. But I can’t go into more. I don’t want to put you in danger.”
Someone’s hands were shaking. Hers, she discovered to her surprise. Good thing he hadn’t said he didn’t want her to be scared, because they were past that point already.
The next morning, Rick was eating his breakfast when the burner phone in his pants pocket buzzed. He excused himself and shut himself in the study before removing the phone from his pants. He’d received a one-word text. “Sunnyside,” Quinn’s code word for emergency.
Several minutes later, Kat received a text from Micki:
Per my media contacts, a burned-out sheriff’s car was discovered in a farmer’s field this morning. The dead body found inside has been identified as one Sheriff Jett Carmody.
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