Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Stirring Up Strife by Jennifer Stanley

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Stirring Up Strife by Jennifer Stanley. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Stirring Up Strife by Jennifer Stanley

A Hope Street Church Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Mass Market Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-312-37685-5 (0312376855)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-37685-7 (9780312376857)
Publication Date: December 2009
List Price: $7.99

Review: Jennifer Stanley introduces 32-year-old Cooper Lee, a plucky lady repairman of office equipment in need of a new life, in Stirring Up Strife, the first in the Hope Street Church mystery series.

After being dumped by her boyfriend of five years, Cooper has moved back with her family in Richmond, Virginia. She's working as a repairer of office equipment -- copiers, laminators, fax machines, and the like -- for a local company, They Make It Work. If only she could patch up her broken heart as quickly as she can put together a broken machine. When Cooper is sent to the offices of Capital City, the nation's largest credit card company, she strikes up a conversation with Brooke Hughes, the office manager. Before she knows it, she's telling Brooke about her miserable life. Brooke invites her to come as her guest to her church where she can meet new people in a relaxed environment. They have a small study group, men and women, who enjoy learning more about the Bible and themselves. Cooper accepts, but following the services on Sunday, Brooke is not among the group, who welcome here as if she was already one of them. Just before their session concludes, they learn that Brooke has been murdered and her husband, Wesley, has been arrested. The group believes Wesley could not have possibly killed his wife, and fearful that the police might not look much further for a suspect, they pair off -- including Cooper -- to search for clues that Wesley is not a killer.

Stirring Up Strife is a splendid mystery with an impressive cast of characters. There are Savannah, a legally blind artist, and Nathan, a computer geek with large feet; Jake, a "recovering Catholic" and Little League coach, and real estate agent Trish, whose face is plastered on billboards through the city; and Quinton, a "banker dude" who's also a master cake maker. Each of these characters is original and real, and it's a treat getting to know them. That they're part of a solidly plotted, really quite charming, murder mystery is all the more enjoyable.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Stirring Up Strife and to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Cooper Lee can repair a copy machine — but can she repair her life? That’s one of the many Big Questions that lead this newly single Richmond girl to Sunrise Bible Study at the Hope Street Church. Cooper hasn’t attended church in ages, but after getting dumped by her long-time boyfriend — and moving in with her family — she could use some new friends, and a new outlook on life. Happily, the members of the Bible group are anything but cookie-cutter, which suits Cooper just fine. There’s a blind folk artist, a playboy meteorologist, an investment banker with a sweet tooth, an ambitious realtor, and a cute shy web designer who just might be “the one” for Cooper. But the member of Hope Street Church who invited Cooper to join this motley crew — an office worker who got her wedding ring stuck in a copier — is something else altogether: She’s dead And her husband is suspected of murder!

The Sunrise gang jumps into action, vowing to solve this unholy mess — with God’s guidance — and Cooper’s snooping …

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