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The Witless Protection Program

The Witless Protection Programa Catering Hall Mystery by Maria DiRicoThe Witless Protection Program

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The Witless Protection Program

The Witless Protection ProgramMia Carina has steered her Italian-American family’s Astoria, Queens, catering hall, Belle View Banquet Manor, into becoming the borough’s premiere party site, and nothing could make her happier—except her boyfriend proposing. There’s just one presumed-dead obstacle in the way . . .

A strong, independent woman and respected entrepreneur, Mia never imagined she’d pine for a marriage proposal. Yet lately, with her beloved Shane, she’s on tenterhooks. It’s especially surprising, considering Mia’s first husband, Adam, was a philandering grifter, assumed lost-at-sea after a boating disaster. But everyone knows what happens when you assume . . .

While working a huge wedding expo in Manhattan, Mia is shocked to spot the man who nearly destroyed her life. The one who’s supposed to be sleeping with the fishes. But she loses him in the crowd. And when it happens again the next day, it’s time for an emergency meeting with the family—and the Family. Because if Adam is alive, Mia is still married . . .

Everyone wants Adam dead. Everyone except Mia. She’s dealt with enough police for a lifetime. Mia needs to be a divorcée, not a widow. But someone out there disagrees, and if Mia doesn’t discover who, she may never be free to marry Shane—or anyone else . . .

Italian recipes included!

The Witless Protection Program (A Catering Hall Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
5th in Series
Setting – New York
Kensington Cozies (March 26, 2024)
Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1496744624
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1496744623
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C9W8W668

To purchase The Witless Protection Program click any of the following links: Amazon – B&N – Kobo – – Kensington – 


Character guest post: Mia Carina

Hi, Mia Carina here. I’m the senior event planner at New York’s Belle View Banquet Manor, with its lovely view of the Flushing Bay – and the LaGuardia Airport runway.

I run parties and give tours that I hope entice people to hold their weddings/Sweet Sixteens/anniversaries/Bar or Bat Mitzvahs/funeral luncheons at our welcoming establishment.

The thing about Belle View, though, is it’s owned by the Boldano crime family. But it’s a legit business! Really! My dad, who was a lieutenant for “the Family,” got the Belle View – no relation to Bellevue, the infamous NYC psychiatric hospital – as payment for a gambling debt. If I’ve heard the joke, “You’re making me an offer I can’t refuse” once, I’ve heard it a bazillion times. But hey, if this place goes belly up, Dad’ll be back doing things he can’t tell me about, so I grit my teeth and laugh like it’s the first time I ever heard that Mob cliché. I want Dad to stay clean and Belle View to triumph as a premiere – and very legitimate – event destination.

Anyhoo, despite all this, I wake up every morning thanking the universe that I’m in Astoria, Queens, and not Palm Beach, Florida, where my cheating husband disappeared with his mistress, and I got pegged as a “person of interest” in said disappearance by the police. Lucky for me – but not so much for his girlfriend – a boat washed up with her body in it, and I was off the hook when the police declared Adam Grosso presumed dead by drowning.

But guess who’s suddenly showed up?! That’s right. Just as I’m about to embark on a lifetime of happiness with my new love, former model and fellow Belle View employee Shane Gambrazzo, Adam Grosso has reappeared determined to win me back. Trust me, it ain’t gonna happen. But that doesn’t mean Adam isn’t gonna make my life difficult.

One sobering thing I’ve learned since moving back to New York is this: if there’s ever a murder at your establishment or even within your vicinity, you can vehemently declare you’re not involved with “Family” activities in any way, and the police will still assume that you are. Which means you and your loved ones will end up primary suspects in said murder.

Especially when the victim is a husband whose very existence could ruin your life.

Maria DiRico — Author of The Witless Protection Program

The Witless Protection ProgramMaria 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 a 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.

To learn more about Maria, click on any of the following links: Website – Chicks on the Case – Facebook &  Twitter 

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March 25 – Mystery, Thrillers, and Suspense – SPOTLIGHT

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March 26 – The Mystery of Writing – CHARACTER GUEST POST

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Elena Hartwell

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