The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz: A review

The Spellman family is a cast of quirky, iconoclastic characters, who comprise a San Francisco private investigations firm. The main - and perhaps quirkiest - character is Isabel Spellman, older daughter of the family who is a talented investigator. She has an older brother, David, who is perfect and not a member of the family firm. He is a lawyer. There is also a younger, 14-year-old sister, Rae, who is decidedly not perfect and whose greatest talent seems to be for blackmail. She's able to achieve her blackmailing aims because she spies on her family and learns their guilty secrets.

In fact, one wonders how the Spellman Investigations firm makes a profit because most of each Spellman's time seems to be spent spying on, tailing, and eavesdropping on other Spellmans. Finally, Isabel ("Izzy") has had enough and wants out. She is promised her release by her parents/employers if she will take one last case, a very cold case. It is a 15-year-old disappearance that was never solved, involving a young man named Snow. In following up leads on the Snow case, Izzy finds more than she bargained for and eventually has to deal with another disappearance much closer to home.

Lisa Lutz seems to be plowing much the same ground here as Janet Evanovich with her Stephanie Plum series. The whole story is played for laughs and it does provide an amusing and fun summer read. The family of characters is mostly too annoying to be likable, but this is the first book in the series and perhaps they improve on further acquaintance.

I sometimes found the writing just a little too cute and felt that Lutz was trying a little too hard for laughs, but, overall, it was an enjoyable read and I think I will probably pick up later entries in the series. The book was this month's selection for the Mystery Book Club at my local library. I would probably never have picked it up to read on my own, but I'm glad I did.


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