When I tell people I’m a home stager, I frequently get blank stares. It’s only been in recent years that home staging has become heard of.
So you ask, what does a home stager do? A home stager works to help homeowners sell their homes faster and for more money. If you were to hire me, I would come into your home and either give you guidance on what you could do yourself to get your house ready for sale, or you could turn the whole thing over to me and I would take care of whatever it needs. If you’ve already moved, I could bring in furniture and accessories to make your place look attractive and lived in.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it. I wish it were always that simple. In the first house I staged, a 19th century mansion that hadn’t been updated in decades, the body of the homeowner fell from a laundry chute and landed at my feet. That was quite a shock, I’ll tell you. Worse, my young assistant was accused of murdering her.
I got dragged into the murder investigation when my assistant’s grandmother pleaded with me to help free him by finding the killer. I had no experience finding killers. The only experience I had in solving a mystery was finding a bug in a computer system. You’ve heard of amateur sleuths? I was a reluctant amateur sleuth. I knew my skills, and finding a murderer wasn’t among them. However, I couldn’t say no to her. I have this problem of saying no to people who ask for my help
Also complicating my life is my nemesis, a local interior designer. She bullied me in school and we’ve been at war since the second grade. Even as adults, she continues to be a thorn in my side. I’ve come to suspect that she’s sabotaging my fledgling business. Worse, I suspect she was involved with my late husband. When she gets into a spot of trouble, I’m faced with helping her when my friends come under the police radar. I would rather see her languishing in a prison cell on bedsheets far from the silky ones she is accustomed to. But if I’m to save my friends, I’ve got to help her. All this while trying to stage several homes at the same time.
In STAGING WARS, I become involved with the local arts group and a murder or two. Who would have thought art could be so deadly? All I really wanted to do was attract more staging business, not trying to identify a killer.
STAGING WARS by Grace Topping
The Second Laura Bishop Mystery
A dead body in a funeral home generally isn't cause for alarm. It is, however, when the dead body is lying on the hallway floor with a knife sticking out of his back! While Mrs. Webster seems intrigued by another murder and Nita is freaking out after originally finding the dead man, Laura Bishop maintains she will not get involved in another murder investigation. Even when Laura and her friends find Laura's nemesis holding a bloody knife over yet another dead body, she doesn't want to get involved. Perhaps karma has finally caught up with the woman who not only tormented her growing up, but might have had an affair with her husband, and may be sabotaging her business. Laura balks when Sister Madeleine urges her to not only help prove Monica's innocence, but also make sure her business, her competing business, stays on track. Laura, giving in to the guilt trip, eventually agrees to help out. After all, how can one say no to a nun?
Two murders, both men stabbed in the back, but seemingly no other connection. A conundrum that makes for an interesting mystery. I appreciate how the connection is made and the "a-ha" moments when I remembered the clues the author left for observant readers. I'm enjoying how Laura is clueless about Detective Spangler's feelings for her, though admittedly the clues are subtle. I adore Mrs. Webster, with her no nonsense attitude and sense of adventure. The little details and well developed characters give this series an added zing.
I was a little annoyed by Laura's attitude towards horses and the author certainly needed to do a little more research in that regard. Though she knew the horse needed to be cooled down, how it was done was incorrect and I gasped aloud when the horse was given lots of water to drink after a hard workout in the heat! Although I felt that some suspects where given short shrift and could have been fleshed out more, it would have made for a very long, perhaps too long, book. These are minor complaints, however, as I did thoroughly enjoy this second Laura Bishop Mystery.
STAGING WARS is an intriguing, well plotted mystery that includes characters with chemistry, humor, and hints of things to come.
Staging Wars (A Laura Bishop Mystery) by Grace Topping
About Staging Wars
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Publisher: Henery Press (April 28, 2020)
Hardcover: 254 pages Paperback: 254 pages
Laura Bishop’s new home staging business is growing in popularity, though not with her nemesis. Laura has long suspected established interior designer Monica Heller of sabotaging her fledgling company—and having an affair with her late husband.
When the ultra-chic Monica is caught at the scene of a murder, Laura is plenty happy to imagine her languishing in a prison cell with bedsheets far from her normal 600-thread Egyptian cotton. But her delight is short-lived. When Laura’s friends land on the police’s radar, Laura must overcome her dislike of Monica to help solve the crime. Not an easy task since Laura and Monica have been at war since the second grade.
About Grace Topping
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 for sale as inspiration for her Laura Bishop mystery series. The series is about a woman starting a new career midlife as a home stager. The first book in the series, Staging is Murder, is a 2019 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. Grace is the former 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.
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