Sunday, February 06, 2011

Backstage Stuff by Sharon Fiffer

I'm going to admit I've been a little tired of Jane Wheel at times.  She's the main  character in Sharon Fiffer's mystery series.  But, with a major change in her life pending, she's more interesting.  The seventh book in the series, Backstage Stuff, is the best in the series, taking Jane and her best friend, Tim Lowrey, back home to Kankakee, Illinois.

Jane's been down in the dumps, unable to sleep or move on with her life, after her husband asked for a divorce.  However, her best friend, Tim, knows all the right buttons to push to force her to move on.  He offers her work assisting him with an estate sale; it's in their hometown; and he brought her a seventy-year-old mystery to solve.

Tim is to sell all the contents of the Kendell mansion.  Freddy Kendell, grandfather of the current heirs to the family fortune, was also a playwright.  And, Tim has permission to stage one of his melodramas.  Jane can't believe it when he doesn't ask her to star in it, since she was a theater major.  Instead, Jane's mother, Nellie, has a featured role as a woman in a coma, onstage for much of the play.  But, Freddy's play has brought nothing but bad luck in the past, and it looks like that's continuing.  And, Tim's not the only one who finds confusing messages from "Old Bumby."  The messages say things like, "People foolish enough to put on this play will die - And they will die fools.  Listen to Old Bumby on this!"

Tim found the perfect projects to force Jane back into life.  The Kendell mansion is filled with interesting pieces.  Jane has to bring Tim up to speed as a director, and gather the props for the play.  Then, there's the mystery that connects the play and Jane's mother.  Nellie has secrets that relate to Bumby, Freddy Kendell, and, possibly even a murder that threatens the play.

Fiffer's mysteries are always most successful when Jane and Tim return to Kankakee.  Jane's relationship with her parents is as much a mystery as Jane's involvement in murder investigations.  This time, Backstage Stuff is a satisfying mix of family, suspense, and theater.  In bringing closure to one stage of Jane Wheel's life, it opens up wonderful possibilities for the continuing series.  Backstage Stuff is more than the seventh book in this series.  It's the kick-off to a whole new stage in the life of the books.

Sharon Fiffer's website is

Backstage Stuff by Sharon Fiffer.  St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2011. ISBN 9780312609795 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.


Kay said...

I'm a few behind on this series. Can't remember exactly which one was the last I read. Good to know that it is still moving along.

I read the first one when I was still managing a thrift shop for a charity I worked with for several years. All the estate sales and trinkets that interested Jane were familiar to me. LOL (I didn't collect them though.)

Lesa said...


If you and are were not current on this series, it had slowed down some, and I had lost interest. I'm glad I read this one, though.

When I read the first book, I had to look up Bakelite to find out what it was that Jane was so nuts about. At least you knew what all the trinkets were.

Kathy said...

Love this series. I want to be at those auctions and sales going through the boxes right along with her!

Lesa said...

Have you read this one, yet, Kathy? It's my favorite in the series. Don't you love the relationship she has with Tim?

Kathy said...

I have ordered it and hope it will be here soon. Yes, I have loved Tim from the beginning. Everyone needs a friend like him. And the parents are hilarious.

Lesa said...

You're going to enjoy this one, Kathy. Jane's parents are in a great deal of this one. You're right. I just love Tim.

Kris said...

Glad to see you are still enjoying the series at book 7. I enjoyed the first one a lot, but I don't think I've gotten around to reading more of it yet.

Lesa said...

Actually, Kris, I dropped out somewhere in the middle, and just picked up the last two. As I said, I got a little tired of Jane. And, I know I didn't read Hollywood Stuff. I just couldn't get into it.