Guest- J.D. Griffo

Jessie: On the coast of Maine, powerless to resist the call of the beach!

I am delighted to welcome J.D. Griffo to the Wickeds blog. I met J.D. at a Kensington publishing event hosted in partnership with the delightedful folks at Print: a bookstore up in Portland, ME  in April. He is witty and warm and an absolute delight. 

J. D. is giving away two copies of Murder on Memory Lake to two readers who leave a comment on the blog.IMG_2965  

Here’s a bit about Murder on Memory Lake – the first book in this brand new cozy series:

Recently widowed and about to turn sixty-five, Alberta Ferrara Scaglione thought she’d spend her golden years reconnecting with her granddaughter, Jinx, and living quietly with her cat, Lola, in the idyllic lakeside community of Tranquility, New Jersey.  She could not have been more wrong.

When she discovers the dead body of her long-time nemesis – the one and only Lucy Agostino – floating in Memory Lake, which is right in her own backyard, Alberta says arrivederci to her peaceful existence.  In no time flat, she and Jinx – a would-be crime reporter – team up with Alberta’s older sister, Helen, a former nun, and their sister-in-law, Joyce, a retired Wall Street wizard, to solve the mystery of who killed Lucy.

It’s The Golden Girls meets Nancy Drew with an abbondanza of Italian flavor thrown in to spice things up as the Ferrara Family goes undercover to become Tranquility’s first family of detectives. 


About a year ago my editor said two words to me that have come to change my life – cozy mystery.  My first response was, “Me?  I can’t write a cozy mystery!  Who do you think I am? Jessica Fletcher??”  Turns out I kind of am Jessica or at least I’m much more Jessica than I ever thought I could be and I’m thrilled by the revelation.

IMG_3744For some reason I imagined cozies as difficult to write because of the intricate plot, the red herrings, and the consistency of character and storylines from book to book within a series.  And I was correct, it is a daunting task! But what I didn’t realize is how incredibly fulfilling and fun it is to weave a story about murder and a little dash of mayhem set in cozy surroundings with cozy characters.  And for me, cozy means familiar. Regular, everyday, ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Once I made that mental shift, I was able to embrace the idea and have come to fully embrace all the characters in my series.

One of the main reasons I love my characters is because I based them on real people in my life.  I tweaked them a bit of course, but their personalities, their dialogue, the way they speak to each other, the way they react to the world around them and especially their values and beliefs are all familiar to me because I grew up with them.

I come from northern New Jersey and grew up in a large Sicilian family.  Sunday dinners at Grandma’s house; sneaking a fried meatball – still warm! – out of the oven; knowing that red sauce is called gravy and brown gravy is called . . . brown gravy; the inability to speak without our hands; the inability to speak without talking really, really loud; cousins who are not only relatives, but friends; and understanding that family is forever and unconditional and is the most important thing in the world.  

Using these traits it was easy for me to breathe life into Alberta Ferrara Scaglione, someone who lives in my heart and although she is far from perfect, I consider her a wonderful woman and someone I’m grateful to have gotten to know.  Thinking of how my female cousins looked, acted, and sounded while we were growing up helped me shape the character of Jinx Maldonado, Alberta’s headstrong granddaughter. And I didn’t have to look very far to steal some characteristics to create Helen Ferrara and Joyce Perkins Ferrara, Alberta’s sister and sister-in-law who round out the amateur detective team.  

Together, these four women represent the many intelligent, confident, resilient, loving, and hysterically funny women that are members of my family and my circle of friends.IMG_3748  The best part is that since I know these women so completely it’s made writing Murder on Memory Lake as well as the two follow-up books in the series – Murder in Tranquility Park and Murder at Icicle Lodge – such an enjoyable endeavor.  My hope is that readers will feel the same way about the Ferrara’s.

I hope that they’ll share in Alberta’s joy reconnecting with her estranged granddaughter Jinx.  I hope that they’ll sense the feeling of family devotion and unity that is the undercurrent of each book.  And I hope that they’ll come along for the ride as Alberta, Jinx, Helen, and Joyce solve murder after murder after murder.

Because readers can trust me on this – there is nothing more enjoyable and exciting than being a part of one big, crazy Italian family.

Readers,  if you could team up with one member of your family – someone who is living or has passed on – to solve a crime, who would it be and why?


IMG_E3574Bio – Italian by birth, Jersey by upbringing, J. D. Griffo is an award winning playwright and author who has written ten novels, over twenty plays, and a handful of screenplays that have yet to see the light of day.  

Griffo studied Journalism and Marketing at New York University, graduating magna cum laude many, many years ago, as well as Creative Writing at the New School and Gotham Writer’s Workshop.  

And the J. D. stands for the author’s mother – Jean Dolores – who absolutely loved to read and tell stories.

 For more information, visit:

83 Thoughts

  1. Waving hi to Michael – it was such a pleasure meeting you in Portland, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this book! I slid a version of my mom into my Local Foods Mysteries after she passed away – she was my model for being a mystery fan, with a living room chock full of crime novels. I think she would have gotten a kick out of appearing in some of the books.

  2. Always interested in new-to-me authors and the story line is intriguing…

  3. It looks like a wonderful book and group of characters! And great question! I guess I would pick my dad–he was the one that tore through all the Agatha Christie books with me when I was a kid. Plus he was a big crossword solver, so maybe all that extra info in his brain would make him a good sidekick! (Haha, note how I am automatically the ,main character!) Thanks!

  4. Cover reminds me of very special friends in the Azores, family sounds like Great Fun, talking with your hands – my favorite hobby! My wild & crazy brother would be my sidekick (actually he’d be the Boss) to solve any mystery thrown at us! Book sounds like a Fantastic Read that I would be Overjoyed to Win!!!

    1. Hi Bonnie! How can anyone talk without their hands?? 😉

      But where’s the Azores? Sounds fab but I must confess I’ve never heard of the place

  5. What a great sounding series. I would love to win the first book to get me started. I would definitely want my daughter to be my partner in detecting. We think alike but each are outside the box thinkers. And we have a ball just being together. Boy, we would get into all kinds of trouble. 🙂

  6. It’s hard to pick only one person to go on a murderer hunt with, but I guess I’ll pick my Dad. It would be great to be with him again no matter what!

    1. Gram!!! That’s what I used to call my fathers mother which is what Jinx calls Alberta!

      My thoughts exactly- I’dl love to team up with my dad again for one more adventure.

  7. The book sounds great! I would choose my sister to investigate with me. She was great at seeing the “real” person inside. People felt comfortable with her and would tell her anything. Plus, she was hilarious!

  8. I love a new series!
    I think I would chose my Nana to solve a mystery/crime with. She had a love of puzzles and remembered everything she read. I learned how to play 21 Questions by the time I was 5 and she always had me using my mind to solve little riddles.
    The cover of your book is beautiful!

    1. Thanks Deb! I agree, the book cover is gorgeous. Kensington did a fab job as always.

      How interesting- I called my mothers mother my Nana and my mom loooooved puzzles!

  9. This book sounds wonderful. I would have to pick one of my cousins. She loves puzzles and is very observant, two qualities that would help with solving any crime.

  10. This sounds like a great series!!! I can’t wait to pick it up

    I would pick my sister to work with — we both love mysteries but would probably not be very good at sneaking around uncovering clues due to our constant squabbling! 🙂

  11. I love finding information about authors that I haven’t read before. My pick for a partner would be my daughter. She is so curious and sometimes nosy and am sure she would be able to unlock any clues I may normally pass over. Thanks for the giveaway and also the introduction to J.D. Griffo and his book.

  12. Not Italian but I had an Italian uncle. At least that’s what my grandmother told me to call him. Vito Batista was one of her partner’s in crime here in Brooklyn. East New York in particular as it was a truly Italian neighborhood back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I still try and use all the Italian I learned as a kid. I’m a spouse, a parent, grandparent, reader, friend to many and as my tag line on my business card reads “A World Class Pain in the Ass”.

    I’d love to be one of the lucky winners.

  13. Congratulations, Michael! Sounds like a wonderful group of characters. While I don’t come from a big Italian family, I always love seeing them portrayed and fantasizing – what if I did?

    1. Hi Lil,

      I dub thee henceforth from now until the Sicilian oranges shrivel up and fall off the vines that you are officially an Honorary Italian!! ;-))

    1. Hi Sherry,

      Ironically my mom was an only child but my dad had seven brothers and sisters so e do have a large extended family and my mom had a bevy of very interesting friends 😉

  14. I’m thrilled to be introduced to J.D. Griffo, a new to me author. “Murder on Memory Lake” sounds like an amazing cozy mystery. I would love to explore the adventures of Tranquility’s senior detective crew – Alberta, Jinx, Helen, and Joyce – through the pages of this book. I must tell you I adore this cover! Not only are my favorite colors use, such a peaceful setting that invites you to come sit and rest a while and an adorable kitty, but you’ve used my all time favorite flower – the hydrangea. Hydrangeas will always remind me of my sweet Granny who grew the one flower makes a bouquet flowers.

    Well, from your description, I MUST be Sicilian. Everything you mentioned about your upbringing (other than I’m from the south, Arkansas to be exact, and Sunday dinners were prepared by my Mom since we were a military family – but I treasured our 30 day vacations to be with my Granny and all my cousins) all sounded so familiar and I could definitely relate.

    Thank you for the wonderful chance for two very fortunate folks that comment. I would love to be one of them. 🙂
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Hi Kay!

      You’ve proven what I believe – Family is Family no matter the location or origin.

      Thanks so ouch for your post and I ageee the cover is beautiful and enticing – I want to love in!!

  15. This sounds like a delightful series, going on my TBR right now. I retired a few years ago and while it’s been busy at least I haven’t had to deal with any murders in my golden years! I would team up with my mother – who was the feistiest woman I have ever known – and my grandmother, who really did know everything.

  16. If I had to choose someone to help solve mysteries it would be difficult. My dad was such a keen observer – always noting the details in any place or situation. My daughter has an interesting perspective on things that I usually miss. Perhaps both of them would be the best crime-fighting, mystery solving team!

  17. Welcome, J.D. It was so great to meet you in Portland. This series sounds terrific. I’m from northern Jersey, but it’s my husband’s family that’s Italian-American (and therefore my kids, too.) After forty-some years, I know all about gravy, giving family members unfettered and unsought advice, and freely ignoring said unsought advice, all of which would have been unthinkable in my tiny WASP family.

    1. Hi Barbara,

      it was great meeting you as well! The Portland event was so much fun. A WASP in an Italian web – wow!! My mother wasn’t a WASP, but she wasn’t Italian either so I know what it was like for you.

  18. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the premise of this series. I am Italian, and though I didn’t grow up around my family, I still understand the joys and frustrations of being part of a big, noisy Italian family. I think I would team up with my Uncle Phil to solve mysteries, because we got along great, he had a wicked sense of humor, and he was a retired police detective. Thanks so much for the chance to win and congratulations on the new series!

    1. Hi Autumn,

      I’m so glad you like the premise of the series. But I think you could have your own cozy mystery series! Autumn and Uncle Phil!!

  19. Congratulations on the new series J. D. it sounds like a lot of fun. And I love the cover–hydrangeas are my favorites! I’m not sure I have a relative I’d team up with for crime-solving, but I do have a few friends I’d take along for the adventure!

    1. Hi Melanie,

      Thanks so much – I love hydrangeas as well – which of course is why I made them grow in Alberta’s backyard! And trust me – most of my friends are like my family so I totally get that feeling.

  20. I would team up with my aunt. She is slow and methodical in her think and not easily stressed out. She also had a great sense of humor so it would be fun to work with her.

  21. I think I would team up with my sister to solve mysteries. She’s really good at getting people to reveal information to her. Congratulations on your new series. Thanks for the chance to win!

  22. I can’t wait to read this delightful sounding series. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  23. Congrats on the new series! It sounds like a ton of fun. I can tell I’m going to have to find room on my TBR list for it.

  24. Wow! What a fun set of amateur detectives! My grandma is the first one that comes to mind for who I would want to solve mysteries together. Probably because I would love to spend more time with her. She was a lovely happy and intelligent lady. Besides her would be my children. I think they would really get into it and we have fun together. My oldest is especially good at analyzing situations and loves codes,

  25. All right, Michael, what exit? We didn’t have one seeing as how Rutherford was off the Turnpike trail, but with bona fides of St. Mary and Lacordaire, I bet we have cousins in common. It is one family up there.

    Congratulations on the series – it sounds wonderful and I’m going to have to pick it up and catch up with the crew!

    1. Hi Kait!! that’s hilarious! I’ve been driving on the parkway and the turnpike for so long I don’t even know what exit I am! 153 – maybe!

      thanks so much – hope you enjoy the ladies

    1. Hi Gloria,

      that’s so great to hear. Yes, I really wanted to have some mature characters. I’ve written some YA with teenagers and loved doing that, but wanted to get inside the mind of some older folks.

  26. Congratulations, J.D., in joining the world of cozy mysteries. Coming from an Italian family in Pennsylvania, I can so relate to your story. I look forward to reading it.

  27. I’d go with my 2 youngest sisters..( they are in their 50’s)..and God!..New to me author..and putting the book on my TBR list..I love “older sleuths”..they may be a tad slower moving, but a ton more savvy and Italian food, but to die for, we are from Positano, Italy..yep big Italian family. Thanks for this chance!!!

    1. Hi Sheryl,

      A trio of sisters solving murders – hmmm sounds like the premise for a good cozy! I think you might be surprised by how much energy Alberta, Joyce, and Helen have. They get into some crazy situations!

  28. I’m looking forward to this series, sounds fun. . My sister and I have always fancied ourselves as crimesolvers, starting with the still unsolved case of the missing bloomers, someone stole the bottom half of our Mom’s bathing suit off the clothes line during a Hampton Beach NH vacation in the 80s. we watched a lot of Scooby Doo and Cagney and Lacey.

    1. Hi Leena!

      That is hysterical! I have my own Bloomers story. When I was in high school I was in the musical Bye Bye Birdie and my friend Carol Ann played the mayor’s wife. She had to faint in one scene when Birdie dances with her, she falls back, lifts up her dress to expose her brightly colored bloomers underneath. From that day forward my father called her Bloomers and I continue the tradition.

      ps – Scooby Doo rocks!

  29. Both my parents read mysteries with me. Mom was probably more into the cozy ones. Your series sounds interesting.

  30. I would team up with my sister for some sleuthing. We both like to read cozies and what one doesn’t think of the other would. Looking forward to starting a new series, sounds like a fun read.

  31. I love that your characters are based on your family.
    I’d choose my cousin, Dana, to help me solve murders. Our strengths & weaknesses would complement each other nicely. A murderer would not have a chance with the two of us on the case.

  32. It would be my uncle, who has read and watched many mysteries. And he is smart enough to follow the clues to find an answer. He could make any day better just by being there, and even now the sound his voice on the phone brings good memories.

  33. Sorry, I have enough trouble dealing with the (currently) 11,039 emails and 45 past-due ARCs. Someone else will have to take on the sleuthing.

  34. This book sounds so good!
    Ummm, who would I team up with: my oldest sister Justine, a bio chemist and my other sister Mary (I have five sisters, all older than me, want one? Ha ha) Mary can always charm people to get what she wants. She once went into Best Buy with her broken computer to see the Geek Squad. 20 minutes later, all fixed, files saved externally, updated with new software – and no charge to her!!
    Happy writing!

    1. Hi there Scribbles – Thanks so much! Your family sounds delightful AND the perfect cast for a cozy mystery series – The Scribble Sisters 😉 I would have looooved to have had a sister growing up, but I guess that’s why I’m so close to my three female cousins who are roughly my age. Five decades on and we’re still friends and see each other all the time.

  35. I absolutely love starting a new series, and can’t wait to get my hands on this one! Ya gotta love a book described as “Golden Girls meets Nancy Drew”! I would sleuth with my mom. ..she shares my love a good mystery, and a good book.

  36. Hi, Michael! I met you at the Richmond, VA, Kensington event. I’m the one with the 90-year-old mother who won the grand prize. I haven’t had a chance to read your generously donated book, yet, but it’s near the top of the TBR pile (have to finish the library books since they’re due). We greatly enjoyed chatting with you that day. I hope to see you again at another event. (Okay, that didn’t sound too creepy or stalkerish, did it?) My detective team would definitely have my mother. Since we read cozies constantly, I’m sure we could solve any case in a flash. A couple of my friends would join in with their expertise, too.

    1. Hi Allison!

      It was wonderful meeting you and Doane – did I remember that correctly?? She was such a delight and it was wonderful meeting the both of you. Please let me know what you think of the Ferrara Ladies!!


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