Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz: A review

This is another wacky romp through San Francisco with one of the most screwed up private investigators you are ever likely to meet - on the pages of a book or anywhere else. Namely, Isabel (Izzy) Spellman, she of the Spellman PI dynasty.

At the beginning of this book, Izzy is no longer associated with the family firm. She is working as a bartender in her friend Milo's bar, The Philosopher's Club, and barely getting by. She has finally found an apartment she can afford in the Tenderloin but she finds that she's unable to tolerate the wildlife that share the apartment with her and she contrives a characteristically Izzy-like solution to her problem.

Her brother, David, with the 2500 square foot house with three bedrooms now lives alone since his divorce, but Izzy can't bring herself to ask for his help or to move in with him. However, when she learns that his house has a secret basement apartment, the solution seems perfectly clear to her. She decides to squat there without her brother's knowledge. The only problem (well, one of the problems) is that once she's moved in, she is so much on edge, constantly expecting to be discovered, that she finds she can't sleep.

Meantime, Milo has introduced her to a friend named Ernie who suspects his wife may be having an affair and wants Izzy to investigate. She takes on the job, but perennially sleep-deprived, she's having trouble focusing or making much progress on it. Concurrently, her parents want her to decide whether or not she wants to return to the family business and eventually take it over. It's time for them to make plans for the firm's future. But Izzy, filled with self-doubt, is not sure that she's any good at investigating and doesn't know if she wants to continue with it. Of course, there doesn't seem to be anything else that she's very good at either.

On the other hand, her teenaged sister, Rae, seems to have a natural flair for investigations. She certainly has a natural flair for mischief-making and for getting right up the noses of Izzy and of her (possibly former) "best friend" Inspector Henry Stone.

Oh, and Henry has a brief romance with an attorney that he meets when he helps her break into her car where she has locked her keys. This puts Rae and the elder Spellmans on alert and they begin investigating the poor woman with a view to breaking things up, because everybody knows that Henry is really meant for Izzy! Unfortunately, they can't find anything wrong with Henry's new friend and they wind up liking her. Even Izzy likes her.

David continues to exhibit weird symptoms of some kind of major life-changing event, but nobody is sure what it is. Grounds for another investigation!

Through all of this, Izzy is having to attend court-ordered therapy sessions with a psychologist and she's doing everything she can to avoid revealing anything.

Yes, Isabel is one messed-up individual from one messed-up family, but she's really a hoot to read about. Nothing serious here, just light fare guaranteed to entertain for a quick read.

I only have one complaint and one request for Lisa Lutz: Could you please just write a straightforward narrative and drop all the footnotes and appendices? They are just extremely annoying, especially when you are reading the book on a Kindle. All that switching back and forth gets old really, really fast, and so I stopped doing it. As far as I can tell, I didn't lose anything by skipping them which tells me that they are just a way of padding the book and they are really not necessary.


  1. I enjoyed this one, too, although I agree with you about the footnotes and appendices. They were tough enough to read in the print edition, let alone an e-version!

    1. They are just a distraction from all the fun of the text, Stephanie. I really wish she would drop them in future books.


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