Staging Is Murder
By Grace Topping
Laura Bishop Mystery #1
Henery Press, 2019
Laura Bishop just nabbed her first decorating commission—staging for sale a 19th-century mansion that hasn’t been updated for decades. But when a body falls from a laundry chute and lands at Laura’s feet, replacing flowered wallpaper becomes the least of her duties.
To clear her young assistant of the murder and save her fledgling business, Laura’s determined to find the killer. Turns out it’s not as easy as renovating a manor home, especially with two handsome men complicating her mission: the police detective assigned to the case and the real estate agent trying to save the manse from foreclosure.
Worse still, the meddling of a horoscope-guided friend, a determined grandmother, and the local funeral director could get them all killed before Laura props the first pillow.
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Staging Is Murder by debut author Grace Topping begins a new mystery series that I really enjoyed. The writing flows smoothly in this well-paced story and the characters are well drawn. I’d like to see more character depth, but expect there’ll be more of this as the series progresses.
The theme of home staging is refreshingly different from all the cooking-related mysteries out there. Not that I don’t care for many of them, but different can be good. Each chapter begins with a helpful staging hint, often reflecting what’s to come. Laura won the staging contract of Victoria’s home over a competitive designer, and the difference between these two fields was something I hadn’t thought about … the goal of interior design is to reflect the family, while that of staging is to make the home neutral so prospective buyers can see themselves living there.
Laura Bishop is a warm, appealing protagonist. I especially liked two secondary characters in her world – her assistant, Tyler, and best friend, Nita. With Laura’s family background, Nita’s welcoming Italian-American family was exactly what she needed. The only thing I didn’t care for was Nita’s obsession with horoscope and psychic-related elements, such as removing negative spirits from the home.
The action gets off to a sudden start when a body comes tumbling down the laundry shoot as Laura works on staging. Tyler, quickly suspected of the crime by authorities, gives Laura reason to do some investigating on her own. I especially liked Tyler’s grandmother, a woman of faith who begs Laura to help her grandson. And as the “mom” of two black rescue kitties, I couldn’t help but adore Laura’s own rescue cat, Inky.
There’s plenty of suspects and red herrings, and the murderer’s identity wasn’t easy to solve. A good series foundation is laid in Staging Is Murder, and I look forward to more of Laura’s adventures.
I received a copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Grace Topping is a recovering technical writer and IT project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. Fictional revenge is sweet.
She’s using her experience helping friends stage their homes as inspiration for her Laura Bishop mystery series. The first book in the series, Staging is Murder, is about a woman starting a new career midlife as a home stager.
Grace is the current vice president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a member of the SINC Guppies and Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.