Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz: A review

I've been reading really serious literature recently and I decided that I needed a bit of fluff to clear my reading palate. It doesn't get much fluffier than Lisa Lutz and her family of ditsy San Francisco detectives, the Spellmans.

This is the fifth in the Spellman series. Several years have passed in the family's history since the series began, and yet it is hard to see much growth in most of the family members. They still spend more time surveilling each other, trying to trip each other up, and playing silly pranks than they ever do on working for their clients. It's really hard to see how they keep the business going.

In this episode, it is not only the Spellmans who are hiding things from each other, but all of their clients seem to have ulterior motives and are hiding secrets which may or may not impact the jobs they've hired the Spellmans to do.

On the home front, Rae, the younger daughter, is now in college. David and Maggie are married and are now the parents of an 18-month-old daughter who, for some mysterious reason, calls everything "banana." Our protagonist, Isabel ("Izzy"), the iconic middle child, has been living with Henry Stone for a while but is unable to commit to a future together.

The Spellman household and investigation firm has taken on a new member, Demetrius, the man who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder and who Maggie and Izzy had managed to get freed in the last book. In this episode of Spellmania also, Grammy Spellman comes to live with the family, an event which portends disaster on many fronts. To top it off, Henry Stone's mother, Gertrude, comes to visit and almost immediately falls for Izzy's disreputable bartender friend, Bernie. Complications ensue.

The plot for this mystery seems utterly impossible to summarize or even categorize. It's really a mess, just like the Spellman family, but a fairly entertaining mess.

Lisa Lutz writes with great good humor and she is able to create some interesting characters. She's been very successful with what she does so she obviously doesn't need any advice from me, but I would like to see her try her hand at a straightforward mystery that goes from point A to point B, all the way to point Z, without all the phony and distracting appendices and footnotes. But that's her shtick, I guess, and she's shticking to it.


  1. Another great read from Lisa Lutz and the Spellman family. I've just pre-ordered the next installment. This one took on a new twist.

    1. The Spellmans were certainly a unique family and Lutz seemed to have a real affection for them, wacky as they were.


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