Thursday, April 5, 2012

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

Book Jacket

They're baaaaack.

Their first caper, The Spellman Files, was a New York Times bestseller and earned comparisons to the books of Carl Hiaasen and Janet Evanovich.  Now the Spellmans, a highly functioning yet supremely dysfunctional family of private investigators, return in a sidesplittingly funny story of suspicion, surveillance, and surprise.

When Izzy Spellman, PI, is arrested for the fourth time in three months, she writes it off as a job hazard.  She's been (obsessively) keeping surveillance on a suspicious next door neighbor (suspect's name: John Brown), convinced he's up to no good--even if her parents (the management at Spellman Investigations) are not.

When the (displeased) management refuses to bail Izzy out, it is Morty, Izzy's octogenarian lawyer, who comes to her rescue.  But before he can build a defense, he has to know the facts.  Over weak coffee and diner sandwiches, Izzy unveils the whole truth and nothing but the truth--as only she, a thirty-year-old licensed professional, can.

When not compiling Suspicious Behavior Reports on all her family members, staking out her neighbor, or trying to keep her sister, Rae, from stalking her "best friend," Inspector Henry Stone, Izzy has been attempting to apprehend the copycat vandal whose attacks on Mrs. Chandler's holiday lawn tableaux perfectly and eerily match a series of crimes from 1991-92, when Izzy and her best friend, Petra, happened to be at their most rebellious and delinquent.  As Curse of the Spellmans unfolds, it's clear that Morty may be on retainer, but Izzy is still very much on the, cases--her own and that of every other Spellman family member.

(Re)meet the Spellmans, a family in which eavesdropping is a mandatory skill, locks are meant to be picked, past missteps are never forgotten, and blackmail is the preferred form of negotiation--all in the name of unconditional love.


I rarely delve into adult fiction, so whenever I find one I like, I view it as some fantastical gem.  Such is Lutz's Spellman series.  Although now that I think of it, even though the heroine is thirty, there is much in these books that is remniscent of YA books--a focus on family, through all their ups and downs, and there's even a teenage protagonist.  Rae Spellman, newly best friends with Inspector Stone, is one of my favorite parts of this series.

As is Inspector Stone!  His dedication to law and order (in every facet of life) makes for a very entertaining mirror of the Spellman's chaos.  And of course I was helpless to fall in love with him once it was made known that he was addicted to Doctor Who.  A man after my own heart.

Izzy remains incredibly smart and surprisingly dumb.  The best part of her idiotic moments are that they are usually because she is so smart.  As for the rest of the family, it was nice to see perfect-brother David acting like a schlub, and the horrible vacations of Mr. and Mrs. Spellman made for entertaining side stories. 

Mostly I love this book because of the surreal truth to it all.  Izzy hates it when her parents tail her or don't trust her answers.  But when they start acting suspicious?  She tails them and won't listen to a word they say.  If only my own neuroses were as entertaining as the Spellmans'.

Five out of five ladder escapes.

Release Date:  March 2008
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

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