Staging is Murder
Book 1 in the Laura Bishop Mystery series
Author Grace Topping
Narrated by Emily Durante
Published by: Tantor Media
Publication date Oct 22, 2019
Running time 8 hrs
Laura Bishop just nabbed her first decorating commission—staging for sale a nineteenth-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. https://tantor.com/staging-is-murder-grace-topping.html
I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
This is a promising debut novel, by an author whose experience lies more in the realm of technical, rather than that of fiction. As such the work is a nit naive. The narration is good – age appropriate and with the hopeful air of one starting a new business.
I had issues with the story and the impositions of the genre. First, in the story Laura had a good, well-paying job, and lives in the house her mother left her. But, she’d left her job and set out, untried with nothing but a training course and desire, sets out to become a home stager. And this is in a small community which already has a decorator who is known as a stager. Also, with the job change Laura knows she needs to watch her money so she skips on more than one latte,but then buys two baskets of flowers – one for a person in the hospital after a hit ad rim, and one for a woman whose grandson is jail. The budget mindedness pervades the book, but tickets to the local theater, tea in a tea shop and those baskets of flowers seem out of what the character believes about herself now. It made the story ring untrue.
I have a thing about the cozy mystery with amateur sleuth: All those sleuths have professions and sometimes a profession is vastly overused. The way the genre forces this convention seems to require a new profession for a debut. The hackneyed professions of clergy, baker, member of the nobility, regular decorator, house maid, private detective, and even the clergy, have been pushed to the limit and left this author with the need to find a new profession and the newish “Real Estate Stager,” was ripe for the picking.
The author spends a lot of time setting up the potential of the new series: Laura’s sidekicks are in place and yet, there’s a tension between the idea of what the series is going to involve – a home stager – and Laura’s desire to travel. The two don’t mesh and this may make some good tension for the future books in the series.
There were some good things: The story did not telegraph the killer and provides plenty of red herrings. Also the character refers back to the cozies we all enjoy; I liked this nod to the great cozies. The author tied up her loose ends — always a plus — and always makes sure that characters’ pets are okay.