Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Book Review: Staging is Murder by Grace Topping (Laura Bishop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good characters and mystery
Cons: Pacing could be a little stronger early on
The Bottom Line:
A client murdered
And assistant arrested
In this fun debut

Starting a New Business is Murder

With so many cozy mysteries and themes out there, it always amazes me when I run across one I haven’t seen before.  That is the case with Staging is Murder, the first Laura Bishop Mystery from Grace Topping.  Laura is just starting a business as a home stager, someone who helps people selling their homes make them look more attractive to prospective buyers.  Of course, her business gets off to a rocky start when her first client in murdered.

That first client is Victoria Denton.  Victoria has a reputation in their small Pennsylvania town of being difficult, to put it mildly.  Despite warnings from her friend, Nita, Laura takes on the job of getting the old house that Victoria lives in ready to sell because she knows that, if Victoria is happy, her praise will help Laura gain future clients easily.  The problem is, the rooms are crowded with knickknacks and furniture, and Victoria doesn’t see anything wrong with how it looks, so each change that Laura wants to make proves to be difficult to implement.

Working late one night, Laura is shocked to find Victoria’s dead body.  The police are quick to zero in on Laura’s college aged assistant, Tyrone.  However, Laura doesn’t believe Tyrone is guilty for a minute.  With prompting from Tyrone’s grandmother, she begins to investigate.  The problem is, the number of people who might have wanted Victoria dead is endless.  Can Laura find the real killer?

Since this is the first book in a new series, we are meeting everyone here for the first time, and I enjoyed getting to know Laura and her friends.  They have a little room to grow and become stronger as the series progresses, but I definitely felt like they were on their way to becoming strong characters that will bring us back for many books in a series.

The murder takes place pretty quickly, but then the book bogs down a bit as Laura tries to figure out how to start her investigation.  Okay, so I admit that I would struggle with the same things she does, but it did make the pacing a bit uneven.  Fortunately, once Laura truly begins to investigate, the pace picks up and I was hooked.  I especially appreciated how direct Laura’s sidekicks could be at times in their questioning.  I’m afraid if I were to ever take on a mystery, I’d never figure out a way to ease into interviewing my suspects and I’d be just as direct.  Just one more reason I’m better off leaving the mystery solving to the pages of books.  The climax resolves everything in a fun and creative way.

Speaking of mystery books, Laura is a mystery fan herself, and there are references to well-known mystery series scattered through the book as Laura wonders what various main characters would do in the situation she’s currently in.  Even though I have not read all the books that she references, I still found them fun.

Each chapter starts with a helpful hint for staging your own home.  Honestly, reading those made me think about the state my condo is in.  It would take me forever to get it ready to sell.  Good thing I don’t have any plans to sell it any time soon, right?

If, like me, you are looking for fun new hooks for cozy mystery series, you’ll be delighted to pick up Staging is Murder.  Author Grace Topping has staged a fun debut that promises more fun books to come.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. Thank you, Mark, for your review. I appreciate everything you said--including those things that I'll be sure to focus on for the next book.

  2. Oh this looks fun and this is definitely a book I've had my eye on. Too bad about the slow start but I'm not to shocked since it is the first in the series. I'm looking forward to reading this one!