Meet Ricki James-Diaz from Bayou Book Thief
by Ellen Byron
Hi, I’m Ricki. It’s short for Miracle— full name, Miracle Fleur de Lis James-Diaz. I’m so excited to be here! On the blog. In New Orleans. Opening my brand-new gift shop selling vintage cookbooks and kitchenware at Bon Vee Culinary House Museum in the Garden District. Talk about a new chapter and new challenges in life, huh?
A little about me: I was born a preemie at New Orleans’ Charity Hospital. My birth mother disappeared and I was adopted by a NICU nurse, my beloved mom Josepha. She named me Miracle because my survival was miraculous. My middle name, Fleur de Lis, comes from the iconic symbol of New Orleans. And I got the hyphenated last name when I was around seven and Mom married Luis Diaz, a grip working on a film shooting on location in the Big Easy. We moved back to Los Angeles, where Dad lived and I was raised. I adore my parents. But now that I’m back in the Big Easy, I hope I may finally find and connect with my birth parents. Luckily, Mom and Dad totally support me in this.
Anyway, I just opened Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbook and Kitchenware Shop in Bon Vee Culinary Museum, the largest mansion in New Orleans’ Garden District. I’ve collected vintage cookbooks since I was a teenager, so the shop is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. That’s more of a figure of speech for me since I’m only twenty-eight. “So young to be a widow,” as people tell me over and over again.
Here’s what happened. I impulsively married an actor in Los Angeles. His acting career was non-existent, so Chris took the name Chris-azy! and started filming dumb stunts he posted on the internet. Suddenly, he became a social media star. But while doing the Marshmallow Challenge where the goal was to see how many marshmallows he could stuff in his mouth, he choked on one and passed away. We were separated but not divorced, hence my status as a “young widow.” On top of that, I found myself out of a job when the billionaire whose collection of first editions I managed was arrested for running a Ponzi scheme.
It’s been a very, very rough year. But… here I am, a shop owner living in the Irish Channel. I love my new career, I love Bon Vee, and I love my co-workers. Well, most of them. There’s a tour guide named Franklin Finbloch who I don’t trust at all. I think he’s stealing from my shop.
He could get himself in serious – or even deadly – trouble.
About The Book
A fantastic new cozy mystery series with a vintage flair from USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award–winning author Ellen Byron.
Twenty-eight-year-old widow Ricki James leaves Los Angeles to start a new life in New Orleans after her showboating actor husband perishes doing a stupid internet stunt. The Big Easy is where she was born and adopted by the NICU nurse who cared for her after Ricki’s teen mother disappeared from the hospital.
Ricki’s dream comes true when she joins the quirky staff of Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, the spectacular former Garden District home of late bon vivant Genevieve “Vee” Charbonnet, the city’s legendary restauranteur. Ricki is excited about turning her avocation – collecting vintage cookbooks – into a vocation by launching the museum’s gift shop, Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware. Then she discovers that a box of donated vintage cookbooks contains the body of a cantankerous Bon Vee employee who was fired after being exposed as a book thief.
The skills Ricki has developed ferreting out hidden vintage treasures come in handy for investigations. But both her business and Bon Vee could wind up as deadstock when Ricki’s past as curator of a billionaire’s first edition collection comes back to haunt her.
Will Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware be a success … or a recipe for disaster?
About the Author
Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty Awards for Best Humorous Mystery. Bayou Book Thief will be the first book in her new Vintage Cookbook Mysteries. She also writes the Catering Hall Mystery series under the name Maria DiRico.
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. An alum of New Orleans’ Tulane University, 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/
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