The Missing Mah Jong Player (Steven Wade Mystery #1) by Iris Wynne
In The Missing Mah Jong Player, by Iris Wynne, divorced Marilou is looking for love in online chat rooms. She has been very busy with her dates and other commitments, that she hasn’t really had a lot of time for her mah jong group. So when she misses a day after confirming she would be there, Harriet (friend and fellow mah jong player) begins to grow worried.
She goes to her house and discovers that Marilou is missing. When the police make no headway into solving the crime and are giving up, Harriet decides to hire a private investigator.
Their investigator, Steve Wade is an ex-policeman who at first doesn’t want to take the case. After much arm twisting and free cupcakes from Harriet’s bakery, he complies. But Marilou’s disapperance raises a lot of hard questions. Was she killed? Did she willingly leave? Was one of the guys she was dating responsible for her disappereance? Or was the criminal someone much closer to her? Not only is Wade investigating a hard case, he also has the five remaining mah jong players intent on helping him discover the truth. From staging a speed dating dinner, to questioning family and friends; these ladies and Wade are hot on the trail.
Thoughts After Reading:
When you read the synopsis of the book it is very centered on Steve Wade and sounds like a modern Philip Marlow or Sam Spade type of detective fiction.
I am not sure if the author changed her direction while writing, or is hoping for a Steve Wade series, but that is not the case. Instead of being solely focused on the private investigator the story is shown through the eyes of Wade, Harriet, Sarah (mah jong player and Wade’s new secretary), and Candy Kane (stripper turned private investigator). I believe this actually improves the story as it transforms it into being more than just a mystery, but also how a loss affects people and what they do to deal with their grief.
Everyone’s reactions to Marilou’s disappearance range across the board. You have some of her friends in denial, believing she just ran away; some who don’t want to think on the issue and are intent on forgetting it as it is a matter for the police; Sarah who won’t stop crying as Marilou was a mother figure to her, and Harriet who needs closure and answers so she hires a detective. Not only does this more personal approach make a stronger story, but it really helps you connect to the characters. This also causes you to really care for Marilou, as all these personal reactions make her into an actual person instead of a “body” or “victim #1”.
Steve Wade was a great character as well. He was intelligent, imaginative, analytical, and able to solve the mystery after a series of time. I liked that it wasn’t instantaneous but methodical, and that at times Steve would sometimes miss what was right in front of his face as he was too heavily concentrated on another aspect. He is also a perfect compliment to his surrounding characters. I hope that this will be turned into a series and that we may see more Steve Wade in the future.
As for the mystery it was pretty compelling. We at first have the question of whether or not there is an actual crime or if Marilou just left of her own accord. Then when it is established as a murder we have a long list of motives and suspects; everyone from Marilou’s cousins, friends, men she was dating, to even her children. It progresses realistically and the only complaint I have was that the end seemed a bit rushed as they present the resolution.
I thought this book is fantastic and the perfect addition to any mystery lover’s bookcase or kindle. I give the story a five out five.
There is one thing that bothers me. It isn’t really about mah jong, in fact mah jong is mentioned maybe one or twice. It makes a great title, but that and the cover don’t really match the story.
For more Private Investigators, go to Lane Changes
For the previous mystery, go to Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder