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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

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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: #1,182,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 Verified Purchase
Sharon Fiffer has done it again…another terrific Jane Wheel mystery. As in “Scary Stuff” there’s less about Jane’s garnering of collectibles and more about the personal relationships with her parents, Nellie and Don, and her partner Bruce Oh. A quick, entertaining read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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By Bevgrey on September 6, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Love her. If you haven't tried her books and you're a fan of cozies, definitely check them out. It helps to start with the first one, but it doesn't affect any major story lines if you don't, at least IMO.
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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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Format: Hardcover
First Line: Jane Wheel couldn't sleep.

If divorce weren't staring her right in the face, Jane could probably sleep the night and day away. But lawyers are wanting detailed lists of income and expenditures, and she's finding it much easier to learn how to check in with her son Nick on Facebook, Twitter and text messages than it is to sit down and compile everything the lawyers want.

Fortunately her best friend Tim knows just what to do to get Jane out of her doldrums. Not only is there a mansion on the outskirts of Kankakee, Illinois, that's stuffed to the rafters with treasures that need to be sorted, tagged and priced before the estate sale, Tim has also unearthed a play written by the mansion's former owner. He's directing and starring in the murder mystery and needs Jane's help with props and the like. But when the show's carpenter dies under suspicious circumstances, Jane becomes convinced that someone definitely doesn't want the show to go on-- and that someone might even be willing to kill to stop it.

These Jane Wheel mysteries are among the select few that I tuck away, knowing that if I'm in need of a guaranteed good read, Jane won't let me down. Backstage Stuff reinforced my belief in Jane Wheel and her creator Sharon Fiffer. In this seventh book in the series, Fiffer used misdirection (in the form of multitudes of creepy ventriloquist's dummies) brilliantly to keep part of the plot from being revealed too soon.

As good as the mystery was, it's always Fiffer's characters that get the lion's share of my attention. Jane has been quietly evolving throughout the series.
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