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When the dragon lady down the street invites Sydney Bonner’s husband to join the block’s holiday lighting extravaganza, Syd figures the venture will distract him while she manages Sheriff Rick Formero’s election campaign. But Trip’s merry mission ends abruptly when the diva suffers a dramatic demise.

Marianne, Micki and Kat see a chance to make their amateur sleuthing official with their contributions to Sheriff Rick’s campaign platform. But they’re just as interested in why the skipper of the spectacular light show met her shocking end. Putting their political proposal into action, Syd rides shotgun with Rick as they interview a stocking full of suspects. Serendipity Springs’ secrets come to light as they unravel the mystery against the backdrop of a contentious campaign. From the standoffish widower to the resentful volunteers, it seems everyone on the committee had a problem with the queen of Christmas. As the naughty list grows and the neighbors string the investigators along, can Syd and her friends nail the evil elf before a deadly decorator turns out their lights for good?

The Dragon Lady Gets Her Due

The Mah Jongg Mysteries Book 8

By Barbara Barrett

The same day as Trip’s first meeting as an official member of the committee, Syd and Marianne met with Rick to update him on their progress. “I’d prefer to meet at Kat’s house, preferably early, like seven-thirty,” Rick told Syd when she called him the night before. Though Syd wasn’t the world’s best early riser, her own comfort ranked second to getting on top of this campaign, so she agreed.

Kat, of course, had put out coffee, juice and Danish rolls, figuring Syd would have skipped breakfast to make this early call.

“Did Trip decide to join your block’s lighting display committee?” Kat asked Syd before they got down to business.

“After considerable back and forth discussion between the two of us, yes, he did. In fact, he’ll be attending his second meeting with the group in a little while,” Syd replied. “He even visited with four of the other five homeowners on our end, and they also agreed to join. The fifth is in Europe and hopefully will join once they’re back next month.”

Marianne sipped coffee while she gazed fondly on the Danish she’d passed over. “I can’t wait to get the skinny on what goes on behind the scenes to get that production up to snuff each year.”

“Have you ever met Eleanor Gilchrist, the committee chair?” Syd asked all four of them. “From what Trip says, she’s a bit of a tyrant. But I guess she’s the reason behind the event’s success.”

Like the last time, Kat settled on the couch next to Rick. “I take it this is his newest project since his chili cook-off days have come to an end?”

How to answer? Trip was usually much more enthusiastic about his projects, but he had more control with those. “For now. He didn’t find this one, like is usually the case. It found him. Time will tell how he likes it.” She caught Rick unobtrusively glancing at his watch. Time to get going. “Anyway, we wanted to update you on a few items we’ve been working on. Marianne, why don’t you brief us on the paperwork to get him on the ballot?”

“I’ve managed to locate all the forms necessary to register you. Everything is complete except for one. Meanwhile, I need your signature on these.” She opened a folder she’d brought and handed him the forms.

“Have you and Kat discussed the proposal I laid out for you the other day?” Syd asked.

“At length. It’s really risky, Syd,” he said. “I’d be putting my whole career on the line.”

She wasn’t surprised. She’d probably have the same reaction if placed in his position. “Is that a no?”

He shot a look at Kat. “Not yet.” He held up a hand. “I know, we have to decide soon. Just give us another day or so to think about it.”

She was about to say something when his phone rang. The sheriff popped up and bounded out of the room. He was back within a minute. “I’ll have to cut this short, ladies. Got a homicide to investigate.” He patted down his pockets, apparently checking for his phone and other lawman paraphernalia. He was about to go when he stopped. “Don’t you live on Sabal Palms Terrace, Syd?”

“Yes?” A sharp pang of fear shot through her. A homicide on her block?

“That name you mentioned earlier? The woman in charge of the committee?” the sheriff asked.

“Eleanor Gilchrist. Why?”

He pursed his lips. “This is still all confidential, but since you live there … she was just found dead in her backyard. Electrocuted. All signs point to murder.”

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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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