Secondhand Stiff Book Review—The Witty Eighth Installment in Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Odelia Grey Mystery Series

Sue Ann Jaffarian’s plucky, plus-size character, Odelia Grey, once again demonstrates her amateur detective skills in the latest installment of the Odelia Grey Mystery series.  Midnight Ink Books will release the eighth novel in this collection, Secondhand Stiff, on December 8th

The combination of Odelia’s wit, Jaffarian’s friendly writing style, and the delicately crafted plot make this mystery difficult to put down.  Jaffarian’s novel falls under the category of cozy mystery, she interweaves a realistic family drama with a suspenseful murder mystery plot.  Jaffarian’s smooth prose makes Secondhand Stiff a highly readable novel—Odelia feels like extended family after only one chapter.

What begins as an ordinary Thanksgiving transforms into a situation that is stickier than cranberry sauce. Tensions at the table run high when Odelia and her husband, Greg, find out they will unexpectedly play host to Odelia’s nitpicking mother, Grace Littlejohn.  In addition, Greg’s cousin, Ina, creates drama by showing up without her philandering husband.  Although Renee, Greg’s mother, suspects this may be for the best. Jaffarian offers an insightful portrayal of family drama as a backdrop to the murder mystery. Inevitably, things take a turn for the worse when Ina’s husband eventually shows up.

Once again, Odelia must put her detective skills to the test. Tom, Ina’s wayward husband, is found dead inside a storage locker being sold at auction. This strikes Odelia too close for comfort and propels her, Grace, and Greg on an investigation to discover the truth about Tom’s murder.  Along the way, Odelia meets an array of colorful characters and contends with her plucky, eighty-year old mother.      

Although Jaffarian makes it clear that Odelia is far from perfect, she is the kind of women that everyone wants to befriend.  Aside from her critical reasoning skills, Odelia is a champion of body-confidence and self-acceptance. Although she is independent and capable, Odelia is not afraid to ask for help or admit her faults. Odelia is a strong woman with a plus-size personality to match her figure.  While she may not be the most glamorous lady detective around, Odelia’s cleverness, wit, and sense of humor help make her a champion of ordinary women.  While it is tempting to compare the Odelia Grey Mystery Series to other novels with feisty female protagonists, Jaffarian’s novels bring a unique flavor to the cozy mystery genre. Her self-deprecating humor and colorful adventures make her both memorable and real. 


Even after seven previous installments, Secondhand Stiff features a carefully crafted and compelling storyline with well-developed, believable characters.  The plot never becomes formulaic because Jaffarian surprises readers with unexpected nuggets of information. Aside from the murder mystery aspects of the story, she creates a realistic and insightful portrayal of family tensions.  As Odelia remarks, “Conversations with my mother were like walking through a field of thick oatmeal with land mines camouflaged as raisins” (133).  Clearly, Jaffarian’s witty prose and dynamic characters keep the pages turning.

While each novel can be appreciated in its entirety, reading the entire Odelia Grey Mystery Series creates a sense of companionship with the characters.  Each novel draws on Odelia’s pervious experiences and offers a more nuanced depiction of her life.  In addition to the Odelia Grey Mystery series, the self-described “plus-size paralegal,” also authors of the Madison Rose and Ghost of Granny Apple series as well as short stories and a peppy blog, Babble ‘n BlogJaffarian will be signing books at Book Carnival and Mystery Galaxy Redondo Beach on December 7th and 8th

Sue Ann Jaffarian (2009)

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