IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE MURDER
Catering Hall Mysteries
by Maria DiRico
Cammie Dianopolis here. I work as an events planner at Belle View Banquet Manor in Astoria, New York, with its scenic view of Flushing Bay and the LaGuardia Airport runway. I use the term “work” loosely. Don’t judge me. That’s the deal I cut with Ravello Carina for when his daughter Mia moved home from Miami to help him run the place. Ravello used to run illegal gambling games for the Boldano Family, and he won Belle View from a gambler who lost the place to him on a bet.
I help Mia plan and execute events for our customers. You name it, we do it. Like, for the holidays, we have one family that’s gonna throw a nativity-themed first birthday for their baby. They’re dressing as Mary and Joseph, and they want us to have animals like they would have at the stable where baby Jesus was born. Lemme tell you, finding a camel around the holidays is not easy. Since when did Living Nativity scenes become such a thing?
Back to me. I found my look in the 1980s and I’ve stuck with it ever since. You like mauve and aqua? I’m your gal. I’m sort of a human time tunnel. I have lots of hobbies I enjoy dabbling in on company time. But don’t worry, I always get my work done. And there’s a big fringe benefit to having me as an employee at Belle View— my ex-husband is NYPD detective Pete Dianopolis. He started self-publishing these cheesy mysteries under the pseudonym Steve Stianopolis and thought he’d make it big and have women falling all over him, so he divorced me. Guess what? Didn’t happen. Now he wants back in. I’m making him work for it, and one way is by sharing tidbits about any investigation involving my friends at Belle View.
When Mia starts batting around a way to solve one of the murders that keep popping up around her, she’ll always find an ear in me, along with a few theories of my own. I’m also nudging her into a relationship with the incredibly hot new employee, Shane Gambrazzo.
It’s enough to make me work an eight-hour day.
Book Three of Catering Hall Mysteries still has this series going strong. Mia has got more than a handful with the banquet hall events, but life still barrels on full speed ahead with long lost relatives popping up in interesting places and even a hint of romance. Before long she finds herself in the middle of another murder investigation to clear the name of a friend and of course it is solid holiday fun.
The strength of this series rests largely on the shoulders of its characters. quirky to the point of fun, serious when needed and all tiny bits of the puzzle that is Mia’s life. Family is a theme that runs through, whether it is a found family of friends or those joined by blood. Mia and her Nonna preside over a great cast that reads like visiting old friends.
The mystery is well paced and well crafted with a satisfying conclusion. The holiday theme seasons the story well and makes the reader want the holidays to get here just a little bit sooner. I am so looking forward to another installment in the series so I can see what Mia gets up to next.
I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily
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!
Maria DiRico is the pseudonym for Ellen Byron, author of the award winning, USA Today bestselling Cajun Country Mysteries. Born in Queens, New York, she is first-generation Italian-American on her mother’s side and the granddaughter of a low-level Jewish mobster on her father’s side. She grew up visiting the Astoria Manor and Grand Bay Marina catering halls, which were run by her Italian mother’s family in Queens and have become the inspiration for her Catering Hall Mystery Series. DiRico has been a writer-producer for hit television series like Wings and Just Shoot Me, and her first play, Graceland, appears in the Best Short Plays collection. She’s a freelance journalist, with over 200 articles published in national magazines, and previously worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. A native New Yorker who attended Tulane University, Ellen lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs.
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