A Wicked Welcome to Guest Ellen Byron aka Maria DiRico!

Donamae Kutska is the winner of a copy of Here Comes the Body! Watch for an email from Ellen!

Sherry here, delighted to host Ellen Byron who is writing her wonderful new series as Maria DiRico. Look for a giveaway at the end of the post. Here Comes the Body is the first book in her new Catering Hall Mystery series. I was lucky enough to read an early version! Here’s a bit about the book: After

her philandering husband’s boat went down, newly single Mia Carina went back to Astoria, the bustling Queens neighborhood of her youth. Living with her nonna and her oversized cat, Doorstop, she’s got a whole new life—including some amateur sleuthing . . .
 Mia is starting work at Belle View, her father’s catering hall, a popular spot for weddings, office parties, and more—despite the planes that occasionally roar overhead on their way to LaGuardia and rattle the crystal chandelier. Soon she’s planning a bachelor party for a less-than-gentlemanly groom. But it goes awry when the gigantic cake is wheeled in and a deadly surprise is revealed . . .
 Since some of her family’s associates are on the shady side, the NYPD wastes no time in casting suspicion on Mia’s father. Now, Mia’s going to have to use all her street smarts to keep him out of Rikers Island . . . 


In the shadow of Italy’s majestic Abruzzo mountains sits a small village called Orsogna. It’s where my mother was born, and her family lived for countless generations prior.


I’ve yet to visit Orsogna. I know it only through photos, and stories shared by the steady stream of Orsognese who left the village and immigrated to America. From my grandmother, who was born in 1906 and didn’t come to this country until 1930, I know it was a hard life. I once asked Nonna what she did as a young girl in Orsogna and she said in her broken English, “We pick up lu sticks.” (“Lu” was her dialectical way of saying the pure Italian masculine and feminine plurals “i” and “le.”) What she meant was that she spent a lot of time gathering sticks to feed the fires that provided heat for cooking and warmed the village’s stone homes. Nonna also told me her family kept animals “in the basement,” by which she meant the ground floor. I asked her why. She shrugged and said, “Meh, where you gonna keep them? In the kitchen?”

The Orsognese who didn’t leave Italy before World War II endured bombings and depravation. Many left the village and sheltered in nearby caves. Some died, killed by landmines on forages for food to feed their families. But by the 1960s, pretty much all of my mother’s extended family had made it to New York, settling in Queens. My childhood memories are often set in the basement of a two-family house in Astoria, a thick cloud of cigarette smoke hovering below the ceiling as the men drank wine and argued in Italian while the women deposited giant bowls of homemade pasta and meatballs on a long table covered with an oil cloth. Other memories are set in the churches where family christenings, communions, weddings, and funerals took place, followed by grand – or somber – parties at Astoria Manor or the Grand Bay marine, the banquet halls that two cousins managed.


My new Catering Hall Mystery series is inspired by the nonnas, nonnos, zia’s, zio’s, cugini, and cugine who made such an impression on me as a child. When I write, I’m taking the walk down Ditmars Boulevard from the subway to my nonna’s house. I’m dancing in a gaudy Astoria Manor banquet room. I’m watching boats bob at the docks behind the Grand Bay Marina. And I’m saying a prayer of thanks to a small village in the shadow of large mountains that beget some of the most wonderful people I will ever be lucky enough to know.

Readers: How has your family or a friend inspired you? Or just say hi! Ellen is giving away a copy of Here Comes the Body to someone who leaves a comment!

BIO: Maria DiRico is the pen name of mystery author Ellen Byron. She is first-generation Italian American on her mother’s side. While growing up in Queens, Maria/Ellen’s cousins ran the Astoria Manor and Grand Bay Marina catering halls. MARDI GRAS MURDER, the fourth book in Ellen’s bestselling Cajun Country Mystery series, won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. The series has also won multiple Best Humorous Mystery Lefty awards. Fun fact: she worked as cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. Maria/Ellen loves to translate what she learned from Martha into recipes for her books. You can reach her at:





HERE COMES THE BODY is available at your local bookstore, as well at https://www.amazon.com/Here-Comes-Body-Catering-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07R8WYLSC/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=here+comes+the+body&qid=1579493893&sr=8-1

And https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/here-comes-the-body-maria-dirico/1131426996?ean=9781496725349

44 Thoughts

  1. My copy is waiting at my local indy to pick up! I’m so happy for you with this series, Ellen/Maria, and what a rich heritage you have. My sister Janet has inspired me in many ways. She (the shy one!) took a two-year trip around the world after college, followed her heart to Quebec, and has dedicated her more recent decades to her Vipassana meditation practice and to ill cats.

  2. I lived in Rome many years ago and developed an appreciation and respect for the Italians. It didn’t matter if their homes were humble or not, you were welcomed with a genuine courtesy. Did WW2’s suffering and starvation teach them that kindness and patience are the true goals or did they always have them? Thank you for your evocative account of your Italian family. I have an Italian last name, fruits of a divorce, but alas I’m not Italian.

  3. Congratulations on the new release…I can’t wait to read it! I love your Cajun Country series, and I know this one will be just as entertaining.

  4. Good morning Ellen!

    Loved “Here Comes the Body” and I can’t spread the word enough about it. It’s the start for a wonderful new series of which I can’t wait for the opportunity to read each and every installment.

    Since I’ve read it, I’ll not enter the contest. I know whoever is the fortunate one is in for a real treat.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. What beautiful pictures – hard to imagine a tough life when you see them.

    As I’ve said before, my paternal grandmother inspire the main character in my Homefront Mysteries.

  6. Congratulations and welcome back. I love this story — thank you so much for sharing it! My parents gave me the gift of reading. Our house was old filled with books and there were lots of trips to the library.

    1. Thanks so much for having me back, Sherry. And both my parents were big readers. My Italian grandfather passed away before I was born, but he was a self-educated man who passed on his love of reading to my mother.

  7. What a lovely post! I’m second generation Italian and while I didn’t know my grandmother really well (we lived on opposite coasts), she did inspire me the few times I spent time with her. Mostly about cooking – she was one of those grandmothers who cooked a lot, all day, to show her love. To this day I love to have people over and cook for them. I often think of my grandmother’s bravery in starting a new life in America when she was just 18 years old. Congratulations on the new series!

    1. Autumn, how wonderful. Yes, I agree about the bravery. I don’t think my nonna ever saw her mother again after leaving Italy. It was so hard on her.

  8. Welcome back, Ellen! I can’t wait to read Here Comes the Body. My husband’s grandfather was born in Abruzzi–in Villalago. We have visited there–on 9/11/2001–which is a story unto itself. My husband’s mother’s cousins (got that?) still owned the house the family had emigrated from and there was, indeed, space for animals on the ground floor. It had been done over into a modern kitchen, but you could totally picture it.

    1. Barb, that’s so cool!! Now I have to look up that town and see if it’s anywhere near my family’s! I envy that you got there. Someday, someday.

  9. Congrats on the new book! I am looking forward to this series. No particular immigration stories but my grandmother and mother told many stories about life in Chicago before the family moved to Northwest Indiana, and how life was during WWII. There was also my great-grandmother, who didn’t say much but always had time for me, and who supposedly has all three of her husbands committed!

    1. Oh Sally, what a wild story. I can pretty much guarantee that any mystery reader who reads that last sentence is thinking, “Oooooh, can I steal this?” I know I am!

  10. Interesting to get some background on your family and therefore the new characters. This is a wonderful debut. Definitely add it to your TBR pile.

  11. I am intrigued by your family story. I grew up an only child, but had so many wonderful aunts/uncles and cousins from my parents who were one of twelve and one of ten children. However, he family that most inspired me was my friend best friend’s family that I met when we were both in elementary school. Her parents were the only survivors in their immediate families to survive Auschwitz and immigrate to the US. As an eight year old having them show me their tattoos made such an impact, one that I have not ever forgotten. They talked very little about their experiences, but one night I was spending the night with my friend and her parents had gone to see the new film Exodus. We had a lovely babysitter. When her parents came home, my friend’s mother was in tears and had to be half carried into the house. The experience made me want to know more about history and what can happen when good people experience such tragedy. I think it made me a more empathetic person.

    1. What a story. Thank you so much for sharing it. Growing up, I had a friend whose parents met in a concentration camp. They never, ever talked about it but had a yorzheit (sp) candle burning night and day for those they lost. I don’t even know how I knew this about them. And I’ll never forget the haunted look my friend’s father always had in his eyes.

  12. What a wonderful family! So many stories. I can’t wait to read it soon. Sounds so interesting. My grandma was a librarian and my dad taught me to read at 4. My maternal grandfather had horses and taught me to ride at a young age. I love both reading and horses. Thank you for the chance

    1. Four? You beat me by a year. At least. I don’t remember when I started reading. I only know I was in love with it from the moment I picked up a book.

  13. Aaugh.so many generational stories of anguish😣 mine came over in 1855 on a sailing ship from France. In have spent decades researching them. I know hardships grandpa was Calvary man in the CivilWar leaving a wife a 11 children😣 this is nothing compared to concentration camps of that war. We had a Nonna
    My dad’s brother married an Italian, her parent’s never spoke English well. We got very close as children including them into our family.

    This book sound fabulous– is the kitties name Doorstop🐾🐾😅
    Your story line is very realistic ( we lived by Ohare airport) that happens.
    Thanks so much for your time and blessings to you for much
    Success in your book🌷💐


    1. 1855? From France? That fascinates me. My husband’s family on his mother side immigrated from France to Hungary two hundred years ago. And yes, Doorstop is the name of the cat. Named because… well, I think you get the idea!

  14. I am inspired by the immigrant students who find their way into my college classroom. Their courage and fortitude in coming to a country with no foreknowledge of what life will be like here, having to learn a language that is often their third or forth and continuing their education, and learning how to deal with a culture, climate, and food that is so different to them, helps me to find the inner strength I need to deal with my chronic pain and autoimmune illnesses. They continue to amaze me.

    1. Forgive the late response, but this is beautiful, Christina. xoxo

  15. My mom was an inspiration to me. She raised four daughters almost to adulthood, dealing with and recovering from 2 benign brain tumors over the years, before succumbing to a malignant brain tumor at age 45. My older sisters (twins) were 23, I had just turned 18 and my younger sister was 17. She dealt with everything with grace. My father was a support, but she was the center of our family. Legallyblonde1961@yahoo.com

  16. My mother inspired me to be a strong woman .She showed me how to be a better person.

  17. Love your other books so I’m excited to give this new series a try. Congrats on the release!

  18. My parents taught me to read, write & draw at a very early age, along with dancing & an appreciation of music,cooking, good food & the arts, and joie de vivre in general.Lots of other family members and friends inspired and encouraged me along the way, and some still do, to this day! I’ m 5th generation American on Mom’s (New Orleans) Sicilian side, and my dad’s Cajun ancestors landed in Louisiana over 250 yrs. ago, during the Great Expulsion of the French from Nova Scotia.My paternal great-grandma is the lone Irish immigrant, hence my dad’s and my auburn hair & fair skin. So yes, we have lots of stories in the family, that I relate to in your writiing! Looking forward to this new series!

    1. Lynn, I’m in love with your background! People don’t realize that there’s such a strong Italian influence in NOLA. In fact, at one point they thought of calling it the Italian Quarter instead of the French Quarter!

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