Meet Ellen

Ellen Byron Founding Member

Ellen Byron is embarrassed to admit that she began her career as an actress. Since her main competition for roles was the way-more-talented Holly Hunter, she found herself with a lot of free time and began writing. In addition to working on sitcoms, she authors the USA Today bestselling Cajun Country Mystery series and the Catering Hall Mysteries (as Maria DiRico). Mardi Gras Murder won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. A Cajun Christmas Killing and Body on the Bayou both won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery and were nominated for Agatha Awards. Here Comes the Body is the first book in her new catering hall series. She’s the recipient of a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant, awarded by the Malice Domestic Conference.

Ellen’s first play, Graceland, appears in the Best Short Plays collection, and is published by Dramatists Play Service along with its companion piece, Asleep on the Wind. She’s been a writer-producer for hit series like Wings and Just Shoot Me, and has written pilots for both broadcast and cable networks. Ellen also maintains a career as a freelance journalist, with over 200 articles published in national magazines. In addition, she worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. Have an early edition of Entertaining? You’ll find Ellen in there, standing right next to Martha.

A native New Yorker, Ellen attended Tulane University, where she developed her obsession with Cajun culture. A lover of rain, she currently lives in bone-dry Los Angeles with her husband, teen daughter, and two very spoiled rescue dogs.  Her daughter insists that if Ellen was given the choice of pulling her or the dogs from a burning building, she’d opt for the dogs. Ellen would like to believe that isn’t true.

Ellen is represented by Doug Grad at the Doug Grad Literary Agency. Learn more about Ellen at and

The Catering Hall Mysteries
(as Maria DiRico)

Here Comes the Body (Book 1)

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 . . .

“Mamma mia! What a nifty story. This endearing new heroine has a lot on her plate—all of it delicious fun!” – Laura Levine, author of Death of a Gigolo

Available in bookstores and online at:
Amazon   Barnes & Noble  IndieBound

The Cajun Country Mysteries

Plantation Shudders (Book 1)
Crooked Lane Books

Plantation Shudders CoverIt’s the end of the summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family’s plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival—elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other – one from very unnatural causes – Maggie and her family suddenly become suspects in a murder

With the help of Bo Durand, the town’s handsome new detective, Maggie must investigate to clear her name while holding the family business together at the same time. And the deeper she digs, the more she wonders: are all of the guests really there for a vacation or do they have ulterior motives? Decades-old secrets and stunning revelations abound in Ellen Byron’s charming cozy debut, Plantation Shudders.

  • Agatha Award nominee, Best First Novel
  • Lefty Award nominee, Best Humorous Mystery
  • Daphne du Maurier Award nominee, Best Mainstream Mystery

“Byron’s debut brings energy and verve to the cozy.” – Publishers Weekly

Buy it on Amazon, Barnes & NobleIndieBound,  Target.

Body on the Bayou (Book 2)
Crooked Lane Books

Body on the Bayou (smaller) (2) (427x640)The Crozats feared that past murders at Crozat Plantation B&B might spell the death of their beloved estate, but they’ve managed to survive the scandal. Now there’s a très bigger story in Pelican, Louisiana: the upcoming nuptials between Maggie Crozat’s nemesis, Police Chief Rufus Durand, and her co-worker, Vanessa Fleer.

When everyone else refuses the job of being Vanessa’s Maid of Honor, Maggie reluctantly takes up the title and finds herself tasked with a long list of duties–the most important of which is entertaining Vanessa’s cousin, Ginger Fleer-Starke. But just days before the wedding, Ginger’s lifeless body is found on the bayou and the Pelican PD, as well as the Crozats, have another murder mystery on their hands.

There’s a gumbo-potful of suspects, including an ex-Marine with PTSD, an annoying local newspaper reporter, and Vanessa’s own spark plug of a mother. But when it looks like the investigation is zeroing in on Vanessa as the prime suspect, Maggie reluctantly adds keeping the bride-to-be out of jail to her list of Maid of Honor responsibilities in Body on the Bayou, Ellen Byron’s funny and engaging follow up to her critically acclaimed novel Plantation Shudders.

  • Agatha Award nominee, Best Contemporary Novel
  • Lefty Award winner, Best Humorous Mystery

“A tight plot, an appealing setting, and a smart, good-hearted protagonist with a caring, supportive family and lots of friends give this story everything cozy readers could want.” – Publishers Weekly

Buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Target, and Walmart.

A Cajun Christmas Killing (Book 3)
Crooked Lane Books

Cajun cover (5)Christmas in Cajun Country is magical.  Elaborate decorations adorn homes and businesses, and Pelican residents come together for a raucous Christmas Eve festival featuring giant bonfires on the levee that light the way up the river for Papa Noël.  But this year, there’s coal in the stockings at Crozat Plantation B&B.  Someone is flooding travel websites with vicious negative reviews of the B&B. The culprit may be one of the Crozats’ own holiday guests, among which is Don Baxter, a nasty businessman who’s an innkeeper’s worst nightmare.

When Baxter is found stabbed to death at Doucet Plantation, where heroine Maggie Crozat works part-time, she and her entire family are considered suspects.  They establish alibis, but her boyfriend, Detective Bo Durand, also a suspect, remains under suspicion. With Bo sidelined during the investigation, Maggie finds herself with an unlikely ally, longtime family enemy Rufus Durand. Her sleuthing uncovers a viper’s nests of dysfunctional family dynamics, and puts her in the crosshairs of a murderer. She and Rufus must track down Don Baxter’s killer, or it will be the opposite of a Joyeux Noël for those at Crozat Plantation Bed & Breakfast.

  • Agatha Award nominee, Best Contemporary Novel
  • Lefty Award winner, Best Humorous Mystery

“Superb… there’s no end to the mischief and mayhem in this exceptional cozy.” – Publishers Weekly Starred Review.

Buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Target, and Walmart.

Mardi Gras Murder (Book 4)
Crooked Lane Books

Mardi Gras cover art (2)

It’s Mardi Gras season on the bayou, which means parades, pageantry, and gumbo galore. But when a flood upends life in the tiny town of Pelican, Louisiana—and deposits a body of a stranger behind the Crozat Plantation B&B—the celebration takes a decidedly dark turn. The citizens of Pelican are ready to Laissez les bon temps rouler—but there’s beaucoup bad blood on hand this Mardi Gras.

Maggie Crozat is determined to give the stranger a name and find out why he was murdered. The post-flood recovery has delayed the opening of a controversial exhibit about the little-known Louisiana Orphan Train. And when a judge for the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen pageant is shot, Maggie’s convinced the murder is connected to the body on the bayou. Does someone covet the pageant queen crown enough to kill for it? Could the deaths be related to the Orphan Train, which delivered its last charges to Louisiana in 1929? The leads are thin on this Fat Tuesday—and until the killer is unmasked, no one in Pelican is safe.

  • Agatha Award winner, Best Contemporary Novel
  • Lefty Award nominee, Best Humorous Mystery

“Superior… Well-rounded characters, a fair-play plot, entertaining repartee, as well as dashes of Cajun lore and Louisiana history make this cozy a winner.” – Publishers Weekly

Buy Link: Crooked Lane Books

Fatal Cajun Festival (Book 5)
Crooked Lane Books

Fatal Cajun Festival.jpg

Grab your tickets for Cajun Country Live!, Pelican, Louisiana’s answer to the legendary New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Maggie Crozat, proprietor of the Crozat Plantation B&B, plans to be in the cheering section when her friend Gaynell Bourgeois takes the stage with her band, Gaynell and the Gator Girls.

The festival’s headliner, native daughter Tammy Barker, rocketed to stardom on a TV singing competition. She has the voice of an angel…and the personality of a devilish diva. But Maggie learns that this tiny terror carries a grudge against Gaynell. She’s already sabotaged the Gator Girls’ JazzFest audition. When a member of Tammy’s entourage is murdered at the festival, Tammy makes sure Gaynell is number one on the suspect list.

Gaynell has plenty of company on that list–including every one of Tammy’s musicians. Posing as a groupie, Maggie infiltrates Tammy’s band and will have to hit all the right notes to clear her friend’s name.

  • Agatha Award nominee, Best Contemporary Novel
  • Lefty Award nominee, Best Humorous Mystery

“Byron’s witty fifth Cajun Country Mystery… supplies a few nasty characters readers can love to hate, along with a joyous dollop of Cajun lore. Cozy fans will enjoy returning to Pelican and dropping in on the Crozat clan.” – Publishers Weekly

Buy Link: Crooked Lane Books

“Diane Mott Davidson and Lou Jane Temple fans will line up for this series.” – The Library Journal

“Brilliant… Ellen Byron has written a delectable Cajun cozy mystery that is one of the best books I have read in a long time!”  – Night Owl Reviews, Top Pick

“’Plantation Shudders’ is a brilliant book that takes us to Louisiana, where there is an abundance of Southern hospitality, charm, legends, and fabulous food. Ellen Byron has written a delectable Cajun cozy mystery that is one of the best books I have read in a long time!” – Night Owl Suspense Top Picks

“An engaging mystery with a touch of romance and a twist of Southern charm.” – NYT Bestseller Nancy Atherton

“Grab a grisgris bag and dish out the jambalaya.  You won’t want to miss Magnolia “Maggie” Crozat, a charming new heroine, and her crime-solving adventures in Louisiana Cajun Country.” – Connie Archer, author of A Soup Lover’s Mystery Series