Book Review: Second-Hand Stiff

Title: Second Hand Stiff
Author: Sue Ann Jaffarian
Format: e-ARC from NetGalley
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4/5

I read this book in one sitting while I was home sick with a nasty cold. It was good enough that it kept my attention for 4-5 hours straight (this is a big deal!) and had enough going on that I never got bored. This is a big deal.

Second Hand Stiff follows Odelia, a plus size paralegal with a talent for finding dead bodies, as she attempts to prove her cousin-in-law’s innocence after her (the cousin’s) husband is found dead in a storage locker up for auction.

None of the characters are cookie cutter mystery stock – everyone has something that makes them unique and unexpected. I loved that the main character is identified as a larger woman, but that it doesn’t play a huge role in the story – and never once does she focus on her weight or talk about wanting to be thinner. I’ve read a lot of books with plus sized main characters, but they always seem to want to be something else or be self conscious of their size – Odelia seems happy with herself. The book also does a good job of representing people with disabilities – Odelia’s husband is in a wheelchair, but he’s also a small business owner and occasional partner in her sleuthing. The wheelchair is mentioned when appropriate or when it impacts what’s going on, but isn’t a gimmick to be different. (To use a Family Guy reference, it doesn’t feel like a kitschy 70s crime show with Wheels and the Leg Man.)

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the pet death in the middle. I’m not sure it really needed to be there (it doesn’t do much for the story except make the reader sad), and it just happened without any warning. To someone still getting over the unexpected loss of a pet (yep, talking about myself), it was really tough to read.

The book has a great premise, given the popularity of things like Storage Wars, and I could see this being very popular in public libraries or among fans of the TV show. I would highly recommend to any public library and would also recommend it to other mystery readers I know. Although there are other books in the series, this book does well as a stand alone read. Personally, I’m planning to read some of this author’s other books to catch up on the rest of Odelia’s story.

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