Edith here, blinking and trying to figure out how it got to be November already.
But I’m not blinking at Ellen Byron, writing as Maria DiRico, producing another fabulous and hilarious Catering Hall mystery! One lucky commenter will win a copy of It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Murder. Here’s the blurb.
Astoria, Queens, is decorated within an inch of its life for the Christmas season, and Mia Carina is juggling her job at the Belle View catering hall with a case of murder . . .
Mia’s busy with a full schedule of events at the family business—among them an over-the-top Nativity-themed first birthday party and a Sweet Sixteen for a teen drama queen. But her personal life is even more challenging. Her estranged mother has returned—and her lifelong friend Jamie has discovered a shocking secret about his past. He’s so angry that he starts hanging out with Lorenzo, who claims to be his long-lost brother—even after it becomes clear that Lorenzo’s story is as fake as a plastic Christmas tree.
Then a body turns up among the elves in a Santa’s-workshop lawn display, and amateur sleuth Mia has a buffet of suspects to choose from. Amid the holiday celebrations, she intends to find out who’s the guilty party . . .
Italian recipes included!
CHRISTMAS AND GARBAGE TRUCKS
I’m guessing that right now you’re scratching your heads and going, “Christmas and what now?” Allow me to explain.
My uncle, Henry DiVirgilio, was a New York City “sanitation engineer.” Translation: a garbageman. He worked in the Bronx, although he and his family lived in an Astoria, Queens two-family home remarkably similar to the one portrayed on the cover of my new Catering Hall Mystery, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder.
My nonna lived downstairs, Uncle Henry, Zia Rose and their four children lived upstairs. (My family also lived in Queens, but we moved to a suburb called Scarsdale when I was ten.) Our families had a reliable system of alternating where we celebrated Christmas every year, but one fact was immutable: if it snowed, any celebration, no matter who was hosting, was in peril. Why? Because they strapped snowplows onto the New York City dump trucks and Uncle Henry was called into duty for snow removal.
There’s nothing more beautiful than a white Christmas —unless it’s sabotaging your holiday. The gifts that couldn’t be opened. The bowls of homemade pasta and meatballs and sausage that wouldn’t be eaten. (Although if it was a year we were hosting, we had a sad but filling repast devoid of the Queens family.)
I have vivid memories of conflicted feelings when flakes began falling on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. “Yes, it’s going to be a white Christmas!” “No, if it snows too much, Christmas is cancelled!” (Postponed but still, when you’re a kid, it makes a difference.) We’d hold a collective breath waiting to hear if Uncle Henry had been drafted into the army of garbage truck-snowplows. Luckily, my uncle only got called to serve a few times.
I live in Los Angeles now, so I don’t have to worry about snowstorms up-ending our holidays. But I miss those family Christmases. I even miss the suspense of not knowing if the celebration might take place. But most of all, I miss Uncle Henry, who passed away ten years ago. New York lost a treasure when he died – a man with a great sense of humor who adopted strays he found on his route (one of whom is immortalized in my series as terrier mutt Hero) and who helped keep the city streets safe and clean – even if it meant Christmas sometimes came on December 26th or even later for the Seidemans (my birth name) and the DiVirgilios.
Readers, share a holiday memory in the comments to be entered to win a copy of It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder.
BIO: Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. She writes the Catering Hall Mystery series, under the name Maria DiRico, and will debut the Vintage Cookbook Mysteries (as Ellen) in June 2022. Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. She blogs with Chicks on the Case, is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America and will be the 2023 Left Coast Crime Toastmaster. Please visit her at https://www.ellenbyron.com/