Book Review: Stirring Up Strife by Jennifer Stanley

Stirring Up Strife
Jennifer Stanley
Minotaur Books, January 2010
ISBN 0312376855
Mass Market Paperback

Cooper Lee is a bit unusual in that she repairs copy machines for a living, something that’s normally done by men, but in other ways she’s just like many other people—attempting to recover from a bad breakup, living with her parents to try to get her life back together again, doing the best she can to get along with her family and the world.

Cooper is also like many of us in feeling somewhat at loose ends so, when a client invites her to visit her church, she decides to go in the hope of perhaps meeting people and getting some new interest in her life to help her move on from the breakup.  She accidentally gets pulled into a bible study group, something she really wasn’t planning on, and learns there that her client, Brooke, has been found murdered.

Brooke’s husband, Wesley, has been arrested for the murder but the Sunshine Bible Study folks don’t believe their friend is guilty.  Concerned that the police will not investigate as thoroughly as they should because they have a suspect in custody, the group jumps in to see what they can discover, pulling Cooper right along with them—and Cooper finds she wants to be involved and isn’t half bad at sleuthing.

Confession time—the author is a friend so I can’t help being a little bit biased.  Having said that, I really did enjoy this Hope Street Church Mystery.  As Christian fiction, the book will appeal to that readership but also to many other mystery lovers as Ms. Stanley handles the religious atmosphere subtly and unobtrusively.  Character and plot development are both strong and the whodunit is not too easily solved by the reader.  I did, however, have two quibbles with the story—at times, it was a tad too “clean” for my taste and sometimes I really felt that Cooper needed to get over it, that she was dwelling way too much on the ex-boyfriend six months after he dumped her.  When all is said and done, though, this is a very good beginning for the author’s third series and I’m looking forward to the next book, Path of the Wicked, due out in April.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2010.