Monday, March 26, 2012

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Book Jacket

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 indistiguishable 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.


This is one of the most entertaining books I've read in long time!  The pace is cracking, the writing is witty and unexpected and hilarious.  I enjoyed every single page written about this delightfully dysfunctional family.

I have long been a bit in love with private investigators, though mostly that love was expressed through my adoration of Veronica Mars.  There's something so intriguing about PIs, who work above and below and through the law in order to find and unveil people's secrets.  It is maybe the most morally grey job that I can think of?  At the moment.

Each member of the Spellman family is well-developed, made awesome and annoying in their own unique ways.  I have a special fondness for Rae, and especially her relationship with Isabel.  They are so brutally honest with each other, and every time Izzy handily throws Rae across the room, you know they love each other.  This is that kind of book.

I highly recommend The Spellman Files to anyone who enjoys humor.  Yeah, I'm being that broad.  Read it!

Five out of five smashed headlights.

Release Date: March 2007
Reading Level: Grade 10+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

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