- Author: Sharon Fiffer | Author Website | Facebook | Twitter
- Reading Level: Adult
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Minotaur Books (October 6, 2009)
- ISBN-13: 978-0312983703
“Jane didn’t always know what she wanted, what she needed, what she craved until she saw it.” – Killer Stuff: A Jane Wheel Mystery by Sharon Fiffer
In this dynamite series debut, Sharon Fiffer has introduced an engaging and enterprising heroine in Jane Wheel. Recently laid off from her advertising job, separated from her husband Charley, and colliding head-on with a midlife crisis, Jane is trying to make ends meet as an antique “picker” foraging for killer stuff at suburban Chicago’s estate sales and auctions, garage sales and flea markets.
Before long she’s addicted to the hunt, spending her Friday nights with the classified ads and a street map, outlining her weekend plan of attack. Jane knows that finding the real treasures is all about being in the right place at the right time.
But just as she’s settling in to her new routine, Jane finds herself in just the wrong place and at quite the wrong time: stumbling over her neighbor Sandy’s dead body. Soon she’s the prime suspect. After all, everyone on the block seems to have seen her kissing Sandy’s husband at a recent dinner party. Leaning on her best friend Tim, a flower shop owner and fellow junk hound, as well as Evanston police detective Bruce Oh, Jane has no choice but to hunt for the truth. Hopefully her knack for uncovering valuables in the least likely of places will extend to discovering clues as well. Like the vintage postcards, Bakelite buttons, and Fulper lamps that she dreams of finding, to Jane the truth just might be priceless.
A clever combination, Killer Stuff weaves antique picking into a cozy murder mystery. #junky #fast #enlightening
At 40 years old, Jane Wheel is having a mid-life crisis. She is unemployed (laid off from her job as an advertising executive). She is separated from her husband (a professor). She is a social pariah (after kissing her neighbor Sandy’s husband at a progressive party). Her teenage son is developing a life of his own (and doesn’t need her as much as he did as a child). Trying to push forward, Jane tries her hand at being a “picker” for an antiques dealer.
Driving around Illinois in Sandy’s large Suburban SUV on weekends, she searches for “killer stuff” at yard sales, auctions, estate sales, etc. Jane soon discovers that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Bakelite, McCoy flower pots, and vintage dish towels seem to call to her. The line between professional shopping and personal shopping begins to blur. After returning the borrowed Suburban one Saturday, Jane finds Sandy murdered in her living room and herself a prime suspect. When Jane finds another dead body shortly thereafter, she uses her rummaging skills to uncover the truth behind the murders with the help of her best friend Tim (a florist and antique picker).
Killer Stuff is the first book in the Jane Wheel Mystery series. Readers who like to rummage and fans of the television shows Antique Roadshow and American Pickers will likely enjoy this cozy mystery more than others. Although I don’t fall into either category, I found the peek at the life of a picker more interesting than the actual mystery. The way the mystery unfolded seemed a bit unrealistic – even for a cozy. I might have turned a blind eye to it if the explanation of motives at the end was more believable. I consider this first book to be the set up for the rest of the series, so I assume that some story lines will be fleshed out more in future books. For example, I found Jane’s nonchalant attitude about her husband and their separation curious (if not a little off-putting).
I plan to read the next book the series in hopes of shedding some light on Jane’s attitude and to see if she can make a go of it as a picker. Jane likes the lower-end “stuff “a little too much. She should heed Notorious B.I.G.’s rule number 4 on selling: “Number four, know you heard this before – Never get high on your own supply.” There is a thin line of perception between pack rat and collector. I also hope to see more of the police detective that worked the murder case(s), Bruce Oh. [His wife happens to be in the antiques trade too.] Oh takes an interesting approach to his work which makes him a compelling character.
If you like this book/series, you should also check out the Den of Antiquity mystery series by Tamar Meyers.
- Cozy mystery readers*
- Folks in the field: hobby/professional pickers, yard-sale lovers, collectors
- Fans of the television show Antiques Roadshow
- Fans of the television show American Pickers
*FYI: There is some profanity – more so than in other cozies that I have read. Jane drops the “f-word” on occasion. It didn’t bother me, but I know some people prefer their cozies profanity-free.
Other Books in the Jane Wheel Mystery Series
Dead Guy’s Stuff
The Wrong Stuff