Staged to Death
By Karen Rose Smith
Caprice De Luca, Home Stager Mysteries #1
Kensington Books, 2013
Caprice De Luca has successfully parlayed her skills as an interior designer into a thriving home staging business. So when her old high school friend Roz Winslow asks her to spruce up her mess of a mansion to perk up a slow buyer's market, Caprice is more than happy to share her skills. But when Roz's husband Ted is found skewered by one of his sword room's prized possessions, it appears the Winslows may have a few skeletons in their palatial closets.
With the stage set for murder, Caprice will discover she can track down an antique tapestry and a cold-blooded killer with equal aplomb--as long as she's not the next victim.
I have always enjoyed cozy mysteries and am glad to have discovered the writing of Karen Rose Smith. Set in Kismet, Pennsylvania, Staged to Death is book #1 in Karen's home staging series. While I have no skill whatsoever when it comes to interior design, it's fascinating to watch home staging on HGTV, so I enjoyed this premise for a continuing series.
A series is only sustainable if you like the protagonist, and I liked Caprice De Luca very much. Forced by an economic downturn to reinvent herself, Caprice transformed her talent for interior design into a home-staging enterprise, through a lot of study and hard work, and learned what rich people wanted so she could fit into their networks: "They want me to be right. They want to be able to trust me, not just my skill, but my connections." She specializes in themed stagings for high-end clients, which is how she met Roz and Ted Winslow in this first book - staging a Camelot theme for their castle-like home.
But what makes Caprice most relatable to me is that she is loyal, rescues stray cats (which is also reflective of the author's heart), and comes from a delightful Italian family, the dynamics of which leave a lot of room for character development through this series.
Realistic or not, I love it when an amateur detective puts herself in the middle of a murder investigation with the best of intentions - which is one of the definitions of a cozy mystery. Caprice tries to help her high school friend, Roz, clear her name in this mystery that combines old-fashioned sleuthing with staging of homes, worrying about her sister Bella's marriage, balancing two possible romantic interests, and finding homes for stray cats. Staged to Death seems to be more character driven than action packed or suspenseful, which is perfect for my tastes because I don't like the scary stuff.
At times, I wished the narrative moved at a little quicker pace, but loved these characters, thought the mystery was well plotted, and will definitely read more of Caprice's adventures. And I greatly appreciated the fact that, with the exception of 2-3 uses of mild profanity, this was a clean read. Recommended to cozy mystery fans.
The next two mysteries in this series are also available: Deadly Decor and Gilt by Association
Karen Rose Smith
Karen Rose Smith lives in Pennsylvania. Once a teacher, she writes mysteries and romances full time and has sold over 85 books since 1991. She has received the Golden Leaf Award, the Golden Quill Award, as well as cataromance.com Reviewer's Choice Award. Her romances have made both the USA TODAY list, the Borders Group Bestseller list for Series Romance and the Amazon Romance Bestseller list. Believing in the power of love, she envisions herself writing novels for a long time to come!
Find Karen online at karenrosesmithmysteries.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
Thank you to Karen for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.