Dead Guy's Stuff continues the story of Jane Wheel (Killer Stuff), an antique "picker" who has made a career of going through old stuff and finding treasures to sell to dealers. However, Jane is not that successful yet because she has a hard time letting go of her finds and she has a tendency to buy memories instead of valuable items, such as Elmira's old schoolwork.
Needless to say, Jane is ecstatic when she finds a whole room of 1950s saloon ephemera - just what she needs to redecorate her mother and father's tavern in Kankakee. She loves the Bakelite darts and dice, advertisements from long-defunct liquor suppliers, old bar games, bowling trophies, old photographs and a severed finger in a jar? Jane immediately calls her friend Detective Oh and asks him what she should do. Oh graciously comes over and takes a look, but, while a little macabre, it isn't as if Jane found a dead body or anything. So Jane tucks the finger away in the glove compartment of her car and heads for home to redecorate.
There she finds the dead body of her parents' former landlord - with a finger that is almost completely cut off. Jane is positive that there is a link between her finger and the dead guy. Now she just has to find it while dealing with her parent's attempts to keep their past secret, decorating her friend Tim's kitchen for a house show, rooting through the dead guy's three houses of stuff, her mother's kidnapping, her friend's suicide and a fascinating group of little old ladies...
Once again, Sharon Fiffer has presented readers with an absolutely fabulous book. Those who were captivated by her attention to detail and great characters in Killer Stuff will not be disappointed with this follow up. Again, there are great details about antiques and collectibles, as well as fascinating glimpses into small town life in Kankakee. Jane Wheel's associations with her fellow characters are always entertaining and her mother is a real kick. Don't wait for this one to come out in paperback - it is well worth the cost of the hardbound price!
This report prepared by Debbie
St. Martin's, Oct 2002, 24.95, 320 pp.
Jane Wheel is a picker, a person who canvasses garage sales, flea markets and estate sales to buy items that she resells to individuals and store owners. Jane is also a collector and when the items in the Bateman house go on sale, she buys a whole room connected with the bar the family used to own. Her parents are redecorating their own bar for a grand reopening.
While Jane is going through the items she bought, she finds a perfectly preserved human finger in a jar. Jane tries to track down the story behind it but before she can get very far, she stumbles across the body of her parents' former landlord, Gus Duncan. The police think he died from natural causes but not too long after his death, another one of his former tenants is found dead in one of his statues. Jane conducts her own investigation and links Mr. Bateman's death with Gus' demise. The police won't listen to her theories until Jane's mother is kidnapped and the investigation becomes very personal for a woman who is unable to stay on the sidelines.
As amateur sleuth takes go, DEAD GUY'S STUFF is one of the better ones due mainly to the heroine who is obsessed with her family, collections and murder in that order. The mystery is very entertaining and readers will try to follow the random clues to their ultimate conclusion. Sharon Fiffer is a fresh new voice that will appeal to cozy lovers.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner