Lucky Stuff by Sharon Fiffer is the eighth Jane Wheel, antiques picker and private investigator cozy mystery (available September 18, 2012).
If you are a collector of anything, you will find a kindred spirit in Jane Wheel. I have more than my fair share of items I can’t live without, and most of them are books. I have to admit that finding out that Sharon Fiffer’s character is a picker made me like her instantly. Jane isn’t just a collector, though, she rescues other people’s treasures. Many times these treasures are in the form of old photographs and yearbooks from thrift stores and flea markets. She gives them a home when previous owners have abandoned them.
Where Jane Wheel and I differ, however, is in our professions. Jane is also a private investigator. As the book opens, she finds herself going through a change in life of sorts. Her ex-husband is living in Honduras and her son has just started to attend a boarding school, leaving her on her own. Jane has decided to put her house on the market and make some changes in her own life, even though she’s not quite sure yet what those changes will be. She has packed up her things, including all of her collectibles and treasures, and shipped them to Kankakee, Illinois. Kankakee is just a few hours away from her home in Evanston, and it is where she decides to spend some time visiting her parents while the realtor shows her house to prospective buyers.
Upon her arrival, you meet Jane’s mother Nellie. Nellie is an odd duck and Jane has always found it difficult to have a close relationship with her. Many of us can identify with the difficult mother-daughter relationship, especially one that involves a know-it-all:
Nellie always knew what was going to happen. She’d see someone trip on the sidewalk, two cars crash at an intersection, lightning hit a rooftop, and shake her head.
“I knew that was going to happen.”
During what experts call the “magic years” of childhood, when children believe in impossible behaviors and events, Jane truly thought her mother had special powers. As Jane grew into the less magical years, she grew slightly more judgmental.
“If you knew it was going to happen, Mom, why didn’t you stop it?”
As Jane drives through Kankakee, she finds the whole town is abuzz. What greets her are banners hung throughout the town and closed restaurants and shops that are reopened:
LUCKY KILLED THEM IN LAS VEGAS!
LUCKY KILLED THEM IN BRANSON!
NOW LUCKY’S GONNA KILL IN KANKAKEE!
KANKAKEE’S FAVORITE SON’S COMEDY ROAST TAPED LIVE—IN KANKAKEE, ILLINOIS!
Here is where the story kicks in and you are taken through the small town happenings as they prep for their “celebrity” event. Lucky is what passes for a town celebrity, but most people don’t even remember who he is. Those who never met him have never even heard of him, no matter how famous he says he is.
I enjoyed Jane’s supportive relationship with her childhood friend and florist, Tim. He is there to help as she deals with her parents, and then with Lucky’s paranoia when he hires her to find out who is trying to kill him. She takes things in better stride than I could ever hope to, and solves a mystery in the process—with the help of her private investigations partner Detective Oh. Her ability to accept the fact that her truckload of treasures has gone missing shows that her mindset is truly changing. I don’t think I could be quite so calm if my life’s valuables were to disappear.
I’ve decided that I need to go back to the beginning of the series to find out how it all began and get to know Jane from the start. I did appreciate that the author was able to give me enough background to enjoy the story without dropping a load of backstory or giving anything away that I may read about in a previous adventure.
Kerry Hammond has been an avid mystery reader ever since she discovered Nancy Drew at the age of 8. She enjoys all types of stories, from thrillers to cozies to historical mysteries.
See all of Kerry Hammond’s posts on Criminal Element.