Friday, March 1, 2019

Staging is Murder (A Laura Bishop Mystery #1)

Author:  Grace Topping
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN:  9781635114904; 9781635114874
Henery Press Publishing
268 Pages
[Prices TBA] $4.99 Amazon
April 30, 2019


Laura Bishop has 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.


Laura Bishop is starting a new career in home staging.  She's been hired by Victoria Denton, who's about as nasty as they come.  But Laura needs the job, and she's determined to make the best of it.  Along with her is her assistant Tyrone Webster, who has aspirations of becoming a designer.  While working with Victoria is difficult, Laura and Tyrone seem to be dealing with it.  But things come to a head one day when Tyrone accidentally breaks a vase and Victoria gets angry and demands he leave.  It goes from bad to worse when Laura tells him that Victoria is on the panel to decide who receives a scholarship that he desperately wants.

Tyrone chases after her, trying to apologize and and offer to pay for the vase, but she won't budge.  Later that day, while Laura is in the basement she has a surprise:  Victoria falls through the oversized laundry chute, and she's very much dead.  When the police arrive and take control of the situation, Laura is questioned and released.  But she soon discovers that Detective Alex Spangler has arrested Tyrone for the murder, and won't be swayed.

Laura is dismayed but doesn't know what to do - that is, until she's approached by Tyrone's grandmother, who raised him.  Mrs. Webster begs Laura to find the killer and get Tyrone released.  She resists at first, but then reluctantly agrees, since she can't think of any way out.  It begins as merely asking questions of people, but soon it becomes apparent that she's been asking the wrong person, because for one who's already killed once, they have no qualms about putting her out of the way forever...

This is the first in a new series, and I really enjoyed it.  There were a couple of things that bothered me, so I'll list them and get them out of the way: I didn't care for Monica Heller at all.  She's a rival stager, and I only hope she doesn't become the 'evil nemesis.'  I really dislike when a series has a person that hates the protagonist and tries to destroy them and/or their business; I don't feel it's necessary to make a great series to have such a person.  The second thing that bothered me is in a spoiler below, and I urge you not to read it until after you've already finished the book!


Anyway, getting past those two items, which I am giving a pass on because as I've stated before, this is the first in a new series, and I felt that the author has done a very good job of weaving a tale of mystery and intrigue, introducing characters that will be interesting to watch as they develop over time.  I do like the characters of Laura, Nita, and Tyrone, and Doug.  It will be interesting to see where the next book takes us in regard to their lives.

While the action was low-key, it worked admirably.  Laura seems to be a kind of low-key gal.  I liked the fact that she was uncomfortable in her new position as amateur sleuth; she was asking questions but didn't really know how to go about it and when she confronted people, it seemed right that she was overly blunt, being 'new to the game' as it were.  She's a wonderful character and I can't wait to see where the next book takes us.

When the ending comes and the murderer is revealed, I felt that it all came together nicely and was believable.  One never knows what another is capable of; or what will drive them to commit murder.  It was a very good narrative indeed, and I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.


More on Grace Topping's Books:


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