Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Reluctant Sleuth

by Laura Bishop from Staging Wars, the second in the Laura Bishop Mystery Series by Grace Topping

Have you ever had a job that bored you to death? I did, and because it was a well-paying job, the decision to leave it was that much harder. But there I was in my early forties, a recent widow (that’s a whole other story), and with a desire to do work that drew on my natural talents and not on my knowledge of boring information technology.

Fortunately, my best friend gave me the nudge I needed. She convinced me that with the experience I’d gained helping friends stage their homes for sale, I could become a professional home stager. So I bit the bullet, sold my expensive Volvo to help finance my venture, obtained training and certification as a home stager, and put out my shingle. Staging for You was born. There is something about owning my own business, one I built myself, and being my own boss that appealed to me. But along with that comes all the financial responsibility. I needed to find homeowners willing to put their trust into me and fast.

So what does a home stager do you may ask? I help people prepare their homes so they can sell them faster and for more money. It could be as simple as meeting with a homeowner and telling them what they can do themselves to get their homes ready to taking on the whole task of doing it for them.

In my first adventure, Staging is Murder, I needed some references, so I contracted with the most difficult woman in town to do a major cleanout and cleanup of her 19th century mansion. I knew the job would be murder, both dealing with her and the size of the project, but I never expected it to include a body. When the homeowner’s body fell from a laundry chute and landed at my feet, removing flowered wallpaper became the least of my worries.

The police suspected my young assistant of the murder, and his grandmother begged me to help find the killer to help free him from jail. A hard task for any individual, but it was made more difficult because I had to deal with a handsome police detective and a real estate agent with movie star good looks. You see, I have this thing—an aversion to handsome men. How come, you may ask? Because every time someone made me unhappy (specifically my handsome father who left my mother and me and my handsome unfaithful late husband), took credit for my work, and generally made my life miserable, a handsome man was usually involved.

Another thorn in my side is a chic local interior decorator who bullied me since the second grade. I strongly suspect she is trying to sabotage my fledgling business and may have had an affair with my late husband. When she gets in trouble, I have to overcome my feelings about her to help solve a murder. I’d much rather see her languishing in a jail cell with bedsheets far from the silky ones she’s accustomed to, but I need to help her so I can assist my friends who have fallen on the police radar. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Lots of people get involved with murder investigations, but I get dragged into them. I’ve never learned to say no to someone in need of help—no matter how much I would like to. Not only am I an amateur sleuth, but I’m also a very reluctant one. I’ll be the first person to admit that I have no experience dealing with murder. The closest I’d come to solving a mystery was finding a bug in a computer system.

But all is not lost. I have the assistance of my horoscope-guided best friend, a grandmother with more moxie than anyone I know, and of all people, the local funeral director. Their interference, ahh, assistance, could get us all killed.

So I invite you to come see me stumble through another murder investigation. Staging Wars takes me into the interesting world of local art groups and a murder or two. Who would have thought the world of art could be so deadly.

Have you ever seen a home that has been staged?

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Purchase Links:
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Killer Characters is proud to host today's guest, Grace Topping. Please join us in congratulating her. The first Laura Bishop Mystery, STAGING IS MURDER has been nominated for an Agatha Award for the Best First Novel of 2019!


  1. I can’t say I’ve ever been through a staged home by a regular realtor other than those home displays where the entire subdivision is for sale. I guess those were staged before it was a term lol. Hubby and I went to those every year in the 80s when we were first married. Can’t wait for this book! I loved the first one!

    1. Thank you for your comments and for reading Staging is Murder. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Once there was a home builders parade of home where in one new housing development each builder bought a lot. They then built a magnificent home on the lot. To finish it off they had it decorated or staged as if lived in before the parade of homes was open to the public. It was fun to see each builder's taste and how you could change the look of the house by how it was staged.

    Congratulations on having been nominated for an Agatha Award for the Best First Novel of 2019!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. Thank you for your congratulations. I was thrilled beyond belief to have Staging is Murder nominated. It truly was an honor.

  4. Congratulations! That's so exciting. I've never seen a staged house but it sounds like a good way to sell a house.

  5. Congratulations Grace!!! Yes, I've been in several "staged homes". when my daughter was looking to buy a new house..I did have to giggle while we looked, thinking, Wow with my daughter's 2 boys, these houses would not stay "neat as a pen" for long! lol! Pray this finds you & yours well. Prayers for all!! nani_geplcs(at)yahoo(dot)com

  6. Oh golly, this is a terriffic story line :-)
    We have been relocated across the country 8 times
    That means 8 times SELLING & House Hunting :-(
    Oh in different States. Relocating 3000 miles from where we live, means husband company flies us for a few days to go meet with a realtor see as many houses,find 1 out a bid on & buy or build.
    We have built 2 bought the rest. Learned SO much each time,we should write a book hahaha.
    Yes you NEED to KNOW staging is an ART. You WILL NOT be living in that.
    We had many staged homes in Long Island & Manhattan, New Jersey.
    Your book sounds Spectacular & COVER great
    Blessings for good health &success on your book

    Kathy levernier