Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery and the 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. Her short stories and essays have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies. Learn more about Debra and her books at her website.
Book Club Friday as told by Heidi Shapiro to Debra H. Goldstein
Can we talk? I mean, after all, this is a Book Club Friday on Lois Winston’s blog, but here at Sunshine Village Retirement Center we talk about everything when we get together. We do that no matter whether it is Book Club Friday, Mah jongg day or you name it. Luckily, because we have a lot to say, Sunshine has daily activities thanks to the staff and our own Carolyn Holt.
Carolyn used to be the children’s librarian at the Wahoo, Alabama Library but since she moved into Sunshine Village, she’s become the place’s greatest cheerleader. She spurs all of us to participate in everything she creates. The staff and the residents love her.
I go to the Book Club meetings to pass time. I like them well enough, but my passion is my Thursday Mah jongg game. I’ve played Maj with the same group of women since we were newlyweds. Back then, we all had young children and owned houses on Diaper Row. Our houses got bigger, the kids grew up, and eventually we all moved into Sunshine Village. After having been in a weekly game for almost forty years, I figure I’ve eaten at least 400 slices of Karen Berger’s marble swirl pound cake. It’s delicious. Far better than the stuff I put out from the grocery store when I host the game.
That’s right. We take turns having the game every fifth week. I invite everyone to my apartment, but a couple of the players, who only have a room here at Sunshine Village, use the game room. I’m not wild about playing there because it always has a table of men playing poker and sometimes they get a bit loud.
Their noise and rudeness is one of the reasons I prefer my larger independent living apartment. The other reason is I haven’t felt completely safe since poor Charlotte Martin was murdered in Carolyn Holt’s room – just a few hours after Charlotte came back into her daughter’s life.
Charlotte was gone for twenty-six years before she showed up out of the blue at her daughter Carrie’s corporate legal office. According to Carrie, they talked and Charlotte left Carrie with a sealed envelope and the knowledge she once thought about killing Carrie’s father. How anyone would want to harm the former minister of the Oakwood Church is beyond me, but I’m getting off track because before Carrie could talk to her father, her mother died.
Carrie is at odds with the detective on the case. She doesn’t want me to know that he used to be her live-in lover, but there aren’t too many secrets in Wahoo and I’m good at getting to the bottom of those that do exist. That’s why I’m glad Carrie finally agreed to let me and the other Mah jongg players help her find out who killed her mother. Maybe, if we succeed, she’ll take an interest in my son. He’s not a doctor, but he is an excellent lawyer and sadly, an eligible thirty-year-old widower.
Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery
Carrie Martin's precarious balancing of her corporate law job and visiting her father at the Sunshine Village retirement home is upset when her mother appears, out of the blue, in Carrie's office twenty-six years after abandoning her family. Her mother leaves her with a sealed envelope and the confession she once considered killing Carrie's father. Carrie seeks answers about her past from her father prior to facing what is in the envelope. Before she can reach his room, she finds her mother murdered and the woman who helped raise her seriously injured.
Instructed to leave the sleuthing to the police, Carrie's continued efforts to discover why someone would target the two most important women in her life quickly put her at odds with her former lover--the detective assigned to her mother's case. As Carrie and her co-sleuths, the Sunshine Village Mah jongg players, attempt to unravel Wahoo, Alabama's past secrets in this fast paced cozy mystery, their efforts put Carrie in danger and show her that truth and integrity aren't always what she was taught to believe.