Friday, March 19, 2010

Review of Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

From Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier --

Spunky protagonist shines in Spellman series --

February 25, 2010 --

Isabel Spellman is not your typical 30-year-old. She's never had a real job outside of her family that she didn't deliberately sabotage. She always runs background checks of current boyfriends. And if she wants to know something about her family, she spies on them.

It's how she was raised in the Spellman household - and she's quickly realizing she can't escape that.

Onetime screenwriter Lisa Lutz has crafted a perfectly dysfunctional family of private investigators living in San Francisco from the viewpoint of eldest daughter Isabel, arguably the most deliciously dysfunctional of them all.

Izzy's past includes a lot of drunken nights with her best friend, Petra, mild drug use, vandalism and other various run-ins with the law. These days, although her adolescence and juvenile record are behind her, she never migrated into what her parents would think of as normal adulthood - unlike perfect older brother David.

Not that it bothers Izzy much. She's happy migrating through various housing situations, various boyfriends and the Philosopher's Club, her favorite watering hole. But she can't seem to shake working for her parents' private investigation business and can't (or won't) stop spying on people, whether it's for business, pleasure or to get the dirt on secretive family members.

Adding to the melee is her younger sister, Rae, who actually admits to a desire to work for the family business and bugs Isabel to no end; and of course, Izzy's own tendency to find the mystery in every situation.

Lutz's style is comedic, but not exactly in the laugh-out-loud way of Evanovich and her ilk. Instead, you find yourself chuckling at Izzy's reluctance, belligerence and general disdain for secrets, authority and stupidity. She's a smart alec but she's also genuinely intelligent - which makes her the unlikely hero to root for in each book.

The author also makes good use of a plethora of footnotes, which usually serve to sum up back stories, provide humorous asides or even refer to stories in previous books ("Check out previous document, ‘Curse of the Spellmans,' now in paperback!")

If you're a fan of humorous mystery novels, and you can relate to a juvenile miscreant who never seemed to grow up (I know I can), you'll enjoy the Spellman books.

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