Cover Image: The Witless Protection Program

The Witless Protection Program

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Member Reviews

Another great adventure where it turns out that Mia's life is not really as she thinks. Someone unexpected comes up in her life that throws a kink in her upcoming plans. Soon she and the rest of the family have their hands full as that person gets murdered and they have to find out who and why so that her next set of plans can take place. Really eventful and I hope there is another one.

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The Witless Protection Program starts strong with an excellent title. This is the fifth in the Catering Hall Mystery series by Maria DiRico. I definitely think you should have read at least a couple of the previous entries in this series before reading this one. Will Shane pop the question? What is Mia to do when she sees her DEAD husband still alive? This series is set in Queens with an over the top Italian American family at the center. Maria DiRico is the pen name for Ellen Byron. She has several credits to her name as a screenwriter. At times her plot points are reminiscent of TV shows, but this is all for the best. She makes me laugh while still wondering whodunnit.

There is a lot to enjoy here with Mia’s family, problems happening in the neighborhood, and wedding planning problems. I wish sometimes that we had illustrations because I would have loved to see the various wedding dresses described here!

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the free Advanced Reader’s Copy in exchange for an honest review. I gave this book 4.5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Throughout this series Mia’s missing, presumed dead, husband has lurked in the background. Is he really dead? Mia’s failed marriage has also played a role in her ability to move on and find happiness in a new relationship. Just when she’s hoping for a proposal from Shane, her cheating, missing husband rises from the dead to complicate her life! We continue to have the family, friends and Family shenanigans, drama and hilarity that has been a hallmark of previous books as Mia and Shane seek their happily ever after. This book provides a thoroughly enjoyable fitting end to this entertaining series!

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Event planner Mia Carina isn’t prone to imagining things so she is more than a bit concerned when her “dead” husband pops up in New York at the worst possible time – when she is planning to marry Shane. When Mia enlists her closeknit family and the Family (she is Italian after all) to find her ex, things get complicated, and it is up to Mia to solve the mystery surrounding his appearance and death, for real this time. An endearing cast of characters, humorous situations, and plot twists abound as she pursues the truth making for a very enjoyable read.

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Pro
* Sitcom-esque characters and storyline
* Familiar setting and characters that are fun to see again

Con
* I miss Jamie in a more focal role
* Trope main storyline
* The two parts of the murder storyline are kind of a stretch to put together
* Final plot element goes too far over the top in places

Thank you to Mario diRico, Kensington Books, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Dollycas's Thoughts

The Belle View Banquet Manor has become the top party place in Astoria, Queens, thanks to Mia Carina. Nothing would make Mia happier than to have her own wedding there, that is if her boyfriend Shane would propose. After the trainwreck of her first marriage, she never thought she would want to get married again but Shane is definitely the man for her.

Then while promoting Belle View at a wedding expo in Manhattan Mia sees someone she thought she would never see again. A man that everyone had presumed dead. A man who almost ruined her life. Her husband, Adam who was supposed to have died in a boating accident. He disappeared before she could get close to him. Then the next day she saw him again at the Dodger game at Citi Field. This is not good. This can't be happening. If Adam is still alive that means she is still married!

Mia calls a meeting with her family and "The Family". She needs to find Adam now and get a divorce as quickly as possible. Everyone else wants Adam dead. Now that she isn't a widow all she wants is to be a divorcée so she can marry Shane.

Sadly someone didn't get the message. Adam is dead and Mia and Shane top the suspect list. Will they ever get married? or will one of them go down for murder?

_____

I hate to write this, but The Witless Protection Program, is the 5th and final Catering Hall Mystery. It hurts because I am invested in these characters. Mia is a strong determined woman who took on the big job of making the Belle View Banquet Manor legit and she has done an amazing job. She has fallen hard for Shane and he for her. They make a wonderful couple. Elisabetta gives Mia and Shane a very interesting gift and she and Mia's mom Gia have another plan in the works for Mia too. Cammie is acting super responsible which is downright scary but she is still spending Pete's money faster than he can make it. These are just a few of the extraordinary characters Ms. DiRico has created and developed in this series. It will be hard to let them go.

But, she has written a heck of a finale for them. The mystery of Adam's death takes Shane and Mia on a cross-country journey to find out how many enemies he raked up while he was supposed to be dead. There ended up being several suspects and Mia kept working the case, putting forth theories, following the clues, until one detail helped put everything in perspective. I enjoyed that Mia went to Pete with her final theory and her idea to flush out the killer. There was a sensational showdown and our girl Mia, WOW.

The excitement didn't stop there. I highlighted the entire last chapter on my Kindle. It was fantastic! I laughed, then I laughed some more and ended up with a huge smile on my face. No spoilers. Just know, that this is now my favorite book in the series. Ms. DiRico topped herself and ended this series better than anyone could have imagined.

The Witless Protection Program was more than a Perfect Escape, it was A Trip to Paradise! A Best Read of 2024! Thank you, Maria DiRico for taking us on Mia's journey. It was a wonderful ride. I recommend reading this series from the start for maximum enjoyment.

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A good end to a really great series that I have loved from book 1. I am really sorry to see all these characters go and will really miss this series as it was always one that I knew would make me smile and give me a really good read.

Thank you to NetGalley, Maria DiRico, and Kensington Books for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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The Witless Protection Program by Maria DiRico sees Mia and Shane getting engaged and planning the wedding. The only problem is that Adam seems to still be alive.

Can Mia finally divorce Adam and marry the man of her dreams?

Mia has finally gotten engaged to Shane, and they are happy. Well, that is until she realizes, after the second sighting, that Adam is indeed still alive and not dead in the water like he led her to believe. Now, she and Shane need to convince him to divorce her so they can marry. I genuinely love Mia and Shane together, and I think that they are perfect for each other. Mia and Shane deserve a happily ever after together.

The Mystery
Mia Carina's biggest mystery is how to find Adam Grosso so she can get a divorce from him and move on with her life. Moving on means she wants to marry Shane by the date they both have already picked out. The biggest problem is, sadly, locating the guy so that this can happen. Things don't always go to plan for Mia, and she ends up finding a dead body. I figured out who did it, or at least a few people with a good motive, and I kept hemming and hawing over this one person. I was right about who did it! Sadly I didn't have to motive though.

Five Stars
I am giving five stars to The Witless Protection Program by Maria DiRico and recommend it to anyone who loves a good, cozy culinary mystery. Ms. DiRico has a great way of telling the story with these characters, and I feel like I'm right there with them, solving a mystery and eating some good Italian food. I have to say that I love this series, and I can't wait to see what else she does with these characters.

Oh, and don't forget to look at the recipes in the back of the book. The recipes are Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina, Ricotta Sugar Cookies and Glazed Icing, Breakfast Pasta, and Italian Wedding Cake.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thank you for dropping by! I hope you enjoyed this review of The Witless Protection Program by Maria DiRico.

Until the next time,
Karen the Baroness

If you would like to see other reviews like this one, check out Baroness Book Trove.

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Bit wacky at the start.

Mia Carina is rather desperately waiting for her boyfriend to propose. Despite one failed marriage under her belt she still believes in a happy ever after. That is until she spots her missing—presumed-dead husband in the crowd.

“Oh, no,” she reasons, “I can’t get married if he’s still alive.”

Well, she can’t get married either if he is only presumed dead, not any time soon anyway. Her missing husband would have to be legally dead for the marriage to end. Or Mia has to get a divorce.

But to get a divorce, she has to find her obviously rather illusive first husband. She enlist the Family to help find her husband so she can ask him for a divorce. I guess it would not be much of a story if she enlisted the family lawyer and petitioned for a divorce in absentia.

With the Family on the look out for, Mia starts planning her wedding. She has her heart set on a date five weeks away.

Uh, I’m no expert on divorce proceedings in New York, but even if the missing husband is found within an hour and immediately agrees to a divorce, I doubt it is possible to settle a divorce within that time.

At this point the story started to segue into slapstick with lots of people declaring they will kill the husband if he does not grant Mia a divorce.

Considering that her first husband is a conman and ripped off a lot of people, that leaves a plethora of suspects when he is found dead in the alley behind Mia’s house.

Not really for me. Too many over the top characters.

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AbsoFreakinLutely the best to date!! I have read everything Ellen/Maria has published and this is by far the best of the best!!

I laughed out loud so many times during this book. Between the Italian families and Families, the Circus Freaks, and the side characters, it is a hot mess express!! If you combine The Sopranos and The Real Housewives with a dash of Hallmark Mysteries and Movies and make it a sitcom, this is what I think you would get. I highly recommend this series.

Thank you, NetGalley and Kensington Publishing, for an advanced digital copy of this book!

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Thank you NetGalley and Kensington Books for providing me with an ARC of this book. The Witless Protection Program is the fifth and final book in the Catering Hall Mystery series. In this book, Mia finds out that her husband is not dead after all, which makes things complicated. When he is killed, everything takes an unexpected turn. As with the previous books, the characters are funny and make the book very entertaining. The mystery keept me interested and I enjoyed both this book and the series until the end. I'm sad that it's over, but I had a good time while it lasted!

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I love The Catering Hall Mystery series so much, and book five might just be my very favorite of all. (Side note to readers new to this series – I listened to books one through four and they are outstanding on audio! If you’re new to the series, I encourage you to start with book one even though you don’t have to–they are just so great, why would you want to miss out?!)

Mia’s most wished for wedding day to the handsome and caring Shane is fast approaching, but will it actually happen when Adam, her thought to be dead con-artist husband reappears in her life?! And then Adam disappears and can Mia’s crime-adjacent family find him alive?

What follows is a fast-paced, funny mystery with wonderful characters. I absolutely loved being with Mia and her devoted friends and family as they worked to solve the mystery and pull together Mia’s dream wedding in a short amount of time. Some scenes are so funny that I found myself laughing out loud as I read. Even when a few characters make some less than stellar choices, I couldn’t help but love them and their buffoonery.

Along with the characters, the neighborhood and other settings are so well written that I felt like I was right there with Mia, munching on cookies made by her Nonna. I’ve found this with the entire series–as soon as I start reading, I immediately fall into the story and setting and don’t want to leave. Actually, I’ve found this with all of Maria DiRico’s (pseudonym for Ellen Byron) writings. She is definitely a must-read author. Fans of cozy mysteries with laugh-out-loud mob moments will adore this series.

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The Witless Protection Program is book #5 in the Catering Hall Mystery series by Maria DiRico.

I really enjoyed this series and hate to see it end. At first, I thought the characters were a bit over the top but now I work for a New York/New Jersey company and the characters are spot on. Mia’s engagement anticipation had me laughing out loud and the humor continued throughout the book. I’d love to see more of what the future holds for Mia. There are delicious looking recipes at the end of the book.

Thank you to the author, Kensington Books, and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) copy of this book and I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

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I love 💕 love 💕 this series!! It was my great pleasure to get the opportunity to read this ARC.

Mia and her fiancée Shane are finally ready to walk down the aisle. They have overcome many challenges and finally are ready to make this commitment.

While at a huge wedding expo Mia is shocked at seeing her presumed deceased ‘husband’! This adds a huge complication to Mia’s upcoming nuptials.

Mia has to figure out how to get Adam to agree to a divorce which he is not wanting to do.

Before Mia can convince Adam to agree to a divorce someone takes things into their own hands and makes Mia a ‘widow’!

Mia has to figure out ‘who done it’ before her wedding to Shane is put on ice.

Thank you NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for letting me read this ARC. All options are my own.

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I love this series as it pushes the boundaries of what a traditional cozy mystery is; it’s still cozy but I find it edgier as it incorporates the seedier side of Mia’s family and their flirtation with crime. The mysteries are always the focus but there’s plenty of laughs to keep it from getting too serious. I particularly enjoy the over-the-top antics of Cammie and her family to balance Mia’s need to be more respectable and law-abiding. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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Mia Carina has been successfully running her family's legitimate catering business and hopes to plan her own wedding soon. However, her first husband, who she thought was dead, shows up and threatens to ruin her plans. Mia's family wants to take care of him permanently, but Mia has had enough of dealing with the police and wants to be divorced, not a widow.

This is the fifth and possibly final book in the hilarious Catering Hall Mysteries, and as a fan, I'm already feeling the loss, but it goes out on a shenanigan-filled wild ride that I couldn't put down. This is a well-crafted and red-herring-filled mystery in a great setting. And the title is so clever and perfect. It's also really funny!

I adore the humor in these books about a crime family in Queens, New York, that has (mostly) been going legit, and this one had me in stitches. DiRico once wrote for The Fairly Odd Parents, among other shows, and knows how to craft funny scenes and populate them with endearingly charming, quirky characters with depth. Mia is surrounded by family and friends who would do anything for her. And sometimes, they offer hilariously over-the-top solutions to situations, leaving Mia to be the voice of reason. This cast is an absolute hoot!

A lot is going on in this book since it wraps up the series, but the writing is excellent, and the pace is fast enough to keep you engaged and entertained. Seeing how the characters' storylines wrapped up was very satisfying, though I hope there will be more books somewhere down the line, fingers crossed. This could be read as a standalone, but starting from the beginning of the series would give readers a stronger connection. I loved this!

Thank you to Kensington Books for the free book!

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I really loved this installment! It was kinda the pulling together of everything and a sorta reunion of some of the past characters Mia had met up with. Something just made me think it’s sounding like it’s the end of the series but I haven’t heard anything official. If it’s the end, everyone went out with a great ending well, maybe not everyone but the key players all seemed happy.

And only Mia Carina could have all this craziness happen before and even at her wedding, lol. Tons of fun, suspense and even more hilarity to be had, so definitely don’t miss out on this book. I totally recommend reading the series from the start to get the complete character experience.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book provided by Kensington Cozies via NetGalley, and my opinions are my own.

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The Witless Protection Program by Maria DiRico is a combo mafia/cozy mystery story featuring Mia, a widowed woman in love with a co-worker. Shane claims love for her as well, but the proposal she wants is slow in coming. Each time she believes now is the time, but it never is. He is a romantic guy! Then finally it happens. Since Mia is part owner of a go-to event center, catering, wedding planning, etc. business known as Belle View, her partner wants to start planning immediately. Mia wants somethings simple, sadly her definition doesn’t match that of Cammie, her partner. This one little difference provides plenty of hilarity in between searching for the murderer of her husband, who had been supposedly dead already, for several years. To compound the hilarity, her grandmother buys them a house, the owner of which had died recently. He was a cartoonist of some note, apparently, and had a cult following that made everything pretty complicated, gumming up the street with memorials, for instance. Then there were the break-ins. It got complicated and comedic.

What a fabulous setting for a book: Queens, New York, and an extended mafia family. The head of the family, Donny Boldano, Sr, is attempting to take the family businesses legitimate. There are two factions of the “family,” one who likes the mob as it is and one who wants it all legit. This lends another dimension to the entire story. This is the first of this series I have read, but it won’t be the last. These people are authentic and very funny, albeit much of the story has a serious tone to it. I highly recommend it for some light-hearted reading with a mystery involved as well as all the rest. Thanks, Maria DiRico!

I was invited to read The Witless Protection Program, by Kensington Books. All thoughts and opinions are mine. #Netgalley #KensingtonBooks #MariaDeRico #TheWitlessProtectionProgram

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Don't worry if you haven't read the earlier books in this fun cozy series- it will be just as enjoyable as a standalone, Mia, who works with her family (and THE family) at their catering hall is once again on the case, this time because her ex, who everyone thought was, ahem, gone, is back. But there's more to the story. The mystery is entertaining but I've always liked these books for the characters. who are a hoot. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Really sorry to see that this is the last one.

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This is the fifth in the Catering Hall Mysteries by Maria DiRico. Our mystery is about finding out who murdered Mia Carina’s supposedly already dead husband.

I found it well-written. The craziness kept me turning the pages to the end.
I liked the concept even though it wasn’t original. What made it original was the twists the author put on it. I love Mia’s grandmother.

I recommend this cozy. I received an ARC and these are my opinion.

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