Bayou Book Thief By Ellen Byron: Review/Giveaway/Guest Post

Jul 9, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy, Travel

by Sandra Murphy & Ellen Byron

This week we have a review of the first in a brand new series by Ellen Byron, along with a fun guest post by Ellen about New Orleans–a great place for your summer vacation! Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

Bayou Book Thief: A Vintage Cookbook Mystery by Ellen Byron
Review by Sandra Murphy

You know those kooks who are always trying some ridiculous stunt to gain internet fame? Ricki James was married to one. Now she’s a twenty-eight-year-old widow, thanks to a how-many-marshmallows-can-you-put-into-your-mouth-at-once epic failure.

It’s not the only thing she has to live down. She worked as the curator for a billionaire, caring for and acquiring first editions. She had no idea the books were funded by a Ponzi scheme.

Born in New Orleans, it seemed like a good idea to return and get away from the notoriety. The Bon Vee Culinary House Museum is the perfect place to open a vintage cookbook shop with accompanying kitchen gadgets and tools. Tours of the museum are scheduled throughout the day and guides are happy to steer groups of visitors into the shop while they take a quick break.

In any shop there’s bound to be a shoplifter who is willing to take a risk. If it’s a tourist, it’ll be a one-time thing. When a cranky tattletale employee turns out to be a book thief, caught in the act, he’s fired. He promised to sue. Before that can happen, a box of donated books arrives—except the contents aren’t books. It’s the body of the book thief.

Determined to make sure her shop’s great start isn’t also it’s death march, Ricki does a little investigating on her own. After all, if you can track down a rare book, you can surely track down a few clues, right?

This is the first book in the new series. The epilogue promises an enticing twist. Hopefully, readers will find out more in book two, Wined and Died in New Orleans, available for preorder and shipping in February 2023. There’s a teaser chapter at the back of this book. Vintage Cookbook Mystery has been added to my list of favorite series.

Byron also writes the Cajun Country mysteries (7), the Catering Hall series under the pen name of Maria DiRico (3).

Ricki shares recipes from vintage cookbooks: French pancakes a la gelee (raspberry or current jelly suggested), Swedish salad (herring is involved), daisy canapes, gingerbread, coconut patties, and crawfish etouffee.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She’s editor for Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Stories Inspired by the Songs of the ’60s, with twenty-two cozy stories. She also edited A Murder of Crows, twenty-one stories featuring animals and crime (no animals were harmed). She also writes for magazines, newsletters, and the occasional guest blog. Both anthologies are available at the usual outlets, print or ebook.

The Big Easy
By Ellen Byron

Steamy summer weather in New Orleans scares off a lot of tourists. Paradoxically, this makes it a great time to visit the Big Easy. Hotel rates and even airline ticket prices are lower. There are special events like the Tales of the Cocktail conference and Coolinary New Orleans, where restaurants all over the city offer deals on great meals. You might even find a Coolinary menu at the legendary Commander’s Palace, located in the heart of the city’s stunning Garden District, which happens to be the setting for Bayou Book Thief, the first book in my new Vintage Cookbook Mystery series.

And remember two little words that make all the difference during a summer stay in any warm clime: air conditioning.

Start off your visit with a day in the French Quarter, where you can alternate between roaming its historic streets and stops in its wonderful – and air-conditioned – museums like the 1850 House, the Presbytere, and the Cabildo, all of which comprise the Louisiana State Museum. I never miss a chance to explore The Historic New Orleans Collection, which offers wonderful exhibits for a great price – free! There are also some really unique locations like the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and the Pharmacy Museum. Entering the latter is like taking a fascinating step back in time.

Take another step back in time with a lunch break at the Napoleon House, which dates back to 1794. It earned its name by being a possible destination for the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte, who passed away in 1821, missing his chance to live out his final years in Nouvelle Orleans. I’m not generally a day drinker, but I can’t pass up a refreshing Napoleon House Pimm’s Cup.

In the evening, check out the happy hour menus at restaurants like Brennan’s, Antoine’s, Broussard’s, or Arnaud’s. This is a great way to sample the fare at New Orleans’ most famous eateries for an affordable price. Then wander down Bourbon Street past Preservation Hall to Frenchman Street, where you’ll find some of the best music the city has to offer. Or venture uptown to Tipitina’s, a go-to spot for local, national, and international musicians.

But visitors shouldn’t limit themselves to the French Quarter. I always recommend a streetcar ride uptown.

The old cars aren’t air-conditioned but have large windows that allow for a wonderful breeze (and lots of rain if it’s a wet day, lol). You’ll ride past gorgeous homes, Audubon Park, and both Loyola University (our daughter’s alma mater) and Tulane (my alma mater – Roll Wave!). Get off in the Riverbend neighborhood and enjoy a delicious lunch at another New Orleans legendary location, Camellia Grill. Monday is red beans and rice day in New Orleans, which my husband ordered with a side of catfish.

There are so many other wonderful places to explore in New Orleans, like City Park, where you’ll find the New Orleans Museum of Art, or Metairie Cemetery (located in New Orleans, despite being named after the suburb next door), with its extraordinary collection of elaborate above-ground tombs.

Bottom line: Don’t let the heat scare you away from a summer visit to this sultry, alluring city. After all, it’s probably hot where you are, too!

To enter to win a copy of Bayou Book Thief, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “bayou,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 16, 2022. US only, and must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week.

You can use this link to purchase the book from Amazon or click here. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won multiple Agatha Awards 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. She blogs with Chicks on the Case, is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, serves on the national board for Mystery Writers of America, and will be the 2023 Left Coast Crime Toastmaster. Please visit her at
Purchase Link: Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron: Books

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. I love to visit New Orleans. The food, the music, the beautiful old homes and buildings and the attractions are wonderful.

    • Can’t wait to start a new series by Ellen Byron I have purchased and enjoyed the B&B series and have been to Madi Gras

  2. Bayou Book Thief sounds like a fun and delicious read that I would enjoy.

  3. Sounds interesting! Count me in!

  4. Thanks, KRL and Sandra! xo

  5. Sounds fun and yummy! Thank you for a chance to win!

  6. Been a long time since I’ve been to
    New Orleans. Guess my next trip
    will be through this book. thanks

    • Love Ellen Byron’s books! Looking forward to starting the new series.

  7. Be careful not to visit after they shut off the AC sometime in September? – it is still hot and humid.

  8. We have a winner!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.