Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beach Read: THE SPELLMAN FILES by Lisa Lutz

There was a tiny bookstore in a San Diego suburb that brought in mystery writers on a regular basis.  Having never heard of Lisa Lutz before, but  having nothing else to do on a lovely SOCAL Saturday afternoon (dh’s  ship was deployed), I went to hear what she had to say about the art of mystery writing.  I, of course, bought all of her books—which she graciously signed--and have been a fan of the Spellman’s ever since!  

Book Title: The Spellman Files, Book 1 in the Spellman series
Author:  Lisa Lutz
Genre:  Contemporary Comedic Thriller
Setting:  San Francisco
Format:  Paperback
Pages: 447  
Publication date: Copyright 2007, paperback edition 2009
Publisher:  Pocket Books
Favorite Passage:  (It would be easier to list my least favorite passage (there isn’t really one) as this book is just one delightful passage after another.  But after much consideration, I selected one from very early on in the book…) 
Car Chase #3
     Speeding over two hills, the BMW, followed by the Ford, reaches downtown in record time.  I check the fuel gauge.  Maybe an hour of high-speed driving left.  I turn right into an alley and sweep through to the other side, making a left turn onto a one-way street, going the wrong way.  Two cars sound horns and careen out of my trajectory.  I check my mirror expecting to have made some headway, but I can’t shake them.
     Driving south of
Market Street
, I accelerate one last time, more as an act of showmanship than an attempt to escape.  I follow it up by slamming on my brakes.  I do it just to rattle them, just to remind them that I am still in control.
     The Ford screeches to a halt about ten feet behind my BMW.  I turn off the ignition and take a few deep breaths.  I casually get out of the car and walk over to the sedan.
     I knock on the driver’s-side window.  A moment passes and the window rolls down. I put m hand on the hood of the car and lean in just a bit.
     “Mom, Dad.  This has to stop.” 

Beach Read Rating:  5 out of 5 Beach Umbrellas

Review: There are über functional families, moderately functional families, dysfunctional families, and waaaayyyy down further along that spectrum there are the Spellmans.  The parents and the middle child (POV character Isobel “Izzy” Spellman) are all PIs, all seemingly intent on spying on each other.  This book is hands down, one of the funniest I’ve ever read.  One thing I learned when I met the author was she started out writing screenplays, and this one definitely has more of a screen-play feel, with lots and lots of dialogue and light on the prose. It has explanatory footnotes (the kind that tend you pop you out of the story) to make reading a bit of a challenge, but they are worth the effort.  I’m not sure how well this would translate into ebook format, because the notes are integral to the story.  But in summary, this book—along with the others in this series--are perfect for a beach (or winter curled in front of the fire) read when you need a good laugh!    

Cover blurb:  Meet Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, private investigator. This twenty-eight-year-old may have a checkered past littered with romantic mistakes, excessive drinking, and creative vandalism; she may be addicted to Get Smart reruns and prefer entering homes through windows rather than doors -- but the upshot is she's good at her job as a licensed private investigator with her family's firm, Spellman Investigations. Invading people's privacy comes naturally to Izzy. In fact, it comes naturally to all the Spellmans. If only they could leave their work at the office. To be a Spellman is to snoop on a Spellman; tail a Spellman; dig up dirt on, blackmail, and wiretap a Spellman.
Part Nancy Drew, part Dirty Harry, Izzy walks an indistinguishable line between Spellman family member and Spellman employee. Duties include: completing assignments from the bosses, aka Mom and Dad (preferably without scrutiny); appeasing her chronically perfect lawyer brother (often under duress); setting an example for her fourteen-year-old sister, Rae (who's become addicted to "recreational surveillance"); and tracking down her uncle (who randomly disappears on benders dubbed "Lost Weekends"). But when Izzy's parents hire Rae to follow her (for the purpose of ascertaining the identity of Izzy's new boyfriend), Izzy snaps and decides that the only way she will ever be normal is if she gets out of the family business. But there's a hitch: she must take one last job before they'll let her go -- a fifteen-year-old, ice-cold missing person case. She accepts, only to experience a disappearance far closer to home, which becomes the most important case of her life.
The Spellman Files is the first novel in a winning and hilarious new series featuring the Spellman family in all its lovable chaos.

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