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Backstage Stuff (Jane Wheel Mysteries) Hardcover – January 4, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
Book 7 of 8 in the Jane Wheel Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Undeveloped characters and a shortage of antiques lore mar Fiffer's fifth Jane Wheel mystery (after 2009's Scary Stuff), one of the weaker entries in her otherwise light and enjoyable cozy series. On the verge of a divorce, antique-picker Jane welcomes the chance to work on an estate sale at the largest mansion in her hometown of Kankakee, Ill. She's also happy to "dress" the set for a production of a play, a murder mystery written by the house's late eccentric owner. When a heavy beam falls on Marvin Gladish, the carpenter for the theater troupe putting on the play, the police think Marv's death is accidental, but Jane suspects murder and once again turns sleuth. The less than suspenseful plot never gains much momentum, and a closing twist doesn't make the denouement any less predictable. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Antiques picker Jane Wheel, in the midst of a divorce, is at loose ends with her son spending the summer on a dig with his father. Then her good friend Tim Lowry asks her to help him prepare for an estate sale in their hometown of Kankakee, Illinois. Jane finds Tim has an ulterior motive; in addition to her assistance with the sale, he also wants her to help him stage a play written by a local author. Trouble comes quickly: strange events occur at the mansion where the sale is to be held, and someone seems to want to sabotage the play. When one of the crew members dies, Jane investigates. As usual in this entertaining series, information on antiques and collectibles is intertwined with the mystery, and this time the dynamics of running a community theater are also in the mix. --Sue O'Brien

Product Details

  • Series: Jane Wheel Mysteries (Book 7)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312609795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312609795
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,521,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Memoir led to mystery for writer Sharon Fiffer

Before finding her inner Nancy Drew,Fiffer co-edited three collections of literary memoirs: Home, Family, and Body.

Editing the memoirs of others prompted her to write about her own childhood--growing up in the EZ Way Inn, her parents' tavern in Kankakee, Illinois. When she began creating the character of antiques picker and scavenger, Jane Wheel, she decided to merge her own memories with those of her fictional heroine, giving Jane a giant helping of her Kankakee childhood.

"It's great fun to rewrite one's childhood and work out all the humor and glitches and heartbreaks of being a grown-up daughter while also struggling to be a mother, a wife, a professional, and a friend. It's also fun to shop at garage sales, rummage sales, flea markets and estate sales--all in the name of research."

Sharon Fiffer admits to having a few collections of her own, but is happy to work out any obsessions with Bakelite buttons, crocheted potholders and vintage sterling silver charm bracelets on the pages of her novels.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This 5th installment of my favorite Picker and P.I.-in-training series featuring Jane Wheel, diverged from the previous 4 novels in that there were very few mentions of 'STUFF' or antiques, as well as some issues with character development. I liked this story, the familiar characters and the fleshing out of Jane's background, but I thought this book was not a best effort when it came to the 'mystery'--it was just too easy, and the story/plot lines was just not up to snuff. I felt like Jane Wheel--discombobulated!

Best friend Tim Lowry knows Jane needs to get away from her house: Nick (her teen-aged son) has gone to summer with Charlie (her soon to be EX-husband) on an archaeological dig. Home alone with her impending divorce weighing heavily on her mind, Jane agrees to help Tim with an estate clearing/sale in Kanakee, Illinois. Of course, Jane's parents, Don and Nellie, own/operate a bar, the EZ Way Inn there. Jane packs up Rita, her dog, her new cell phone (so she can Tweet and Facebook with Nick) and accompanies Tim back to the town of their high school days. The estate belongs to a prominent and wealthy family and the house is a mansion filled with all kinds of stuff. Tim and Jane will have their work cut out for them. The heirs are older and neither live in Kanakee. The Grandfather was a local character and playwright, while the father was infamous for an investment scheme which lost not only his family's money, but many others in the small town. Tim has an ulterior motive for wanting Jane on this job--he has finagled his way into being the director of the community play. It was, of course, written by the grandfather, and is a murder mystery entitled 'Murder in Eekannk' (Kanakee backwards).
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Format: Hardcover
Fiffer's lovely seventh book in her Jane Wheel mystery series, Backstage Stuff, illuminates the characters and places we've come to love in her earlier books. But even as we're welcomed back into the E-Z Way Inn, back into the fold with Jane, Nellie, Oh, and Tim, we're also introduced to new locations, new characters, and yes, don't worry, lots of cool new stuff.

This is a mystery I wanted to read all day long for as long as it would last. A good mystery is like that. But beware: this one stays with you for a while -- I'm still recalling moments, conjuring treasures, and reconsidering characters. Looking forward to number eight!
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Format: Hardcover
Bah humbug to all you reviewers who downplay this fabulous mystery! Although I agree that the book does not mention "antique stuff" as frequently as the other novels in the series, this book has a wonderful plot that kept me guessing until the end. I simply could not stop reading this book. The mystery is very interesting and funny. The madcap adventures of Jane, Tim, and Nellie (the surprise actor!!) along with Rita the dog will provide you with a least a couple hours of pure enjoyment. A WONDERFUL BOOK WORTHY OF YOUR TIME!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fun read. Jane Wheel (Antique Picker and Private Investigator) is assisting her friend Tim with a large estate sale and gets caught up in the production of an old timey play. We meet a new cast of characters (really characters). Our usuals (Jane's parents), Oh and Claire, Nick (her son) and her husband Charley (who is Honduras on a dig) are also integrated within the story. A ventriliquist's dummy (Mr. Bumbles) is predominant in the plot.
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Format: Hardcover
As a former actor and theater director, I frequently found myself nodding in reminiscence - sometimes even laughing - at the multiplicity of misadventures that befall an amateur theater troupe in Sharon Fiffer's "Backstage Stuff." The countdown to opening night has an uncanny way of bringing out the worst in rehearsals - the last-minute scramble for props, the performers who still aren't off-book, the backstory rivalries, and, of course, the spotlight-hogging egos around whom the rest of the universe must dutifully revolve. Even when two murders are added to the mix, the show must go on...or will it? The creepiness element is well orchestrated by a ventriloquist's dummy, Mr. Bumbles, who may or may not be the malevolent puppetmaster pulling everyone's strings. (Just for the record, I have *always* thought that ventriloquist dummies were scary, kind of like clowns except much smaller and made of wood.)

While the author's character development, scene descriptions and dialogue contribute to a fun and engaging read for armchair sleuths of all ages, the resolution unravels into a cliche we've seen far too many times in novels and television; specifically, the villain's monologue along the lines of, "Aha! (laughing maniacally) Now that you have figured out all of the cryptic clues and been lured into my skillful trap from which there is no escape, let me spend the next three hours explaining my motives and filling in any plot points you may have missed so as to afford the police an adequate chance to arrive from across town and arrest me before I can kill you."

For as much suspense and steam that the story was building up for the readers until this moment, I'd like to have seen a less cliched final curtain.
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