Come look through ‘The Spellman Files’

Lindsay Adams

“The Spellman Files” by Lisa Lutz is a quirky and entertaining tale about a family of lovable lunatics. It is a brilliant case study in dysfunctional families, picking locks and stakeout procedures.

The heroine, Isabel (Izzy) Spellman, is so dysfunctional and snarky that it is impossible to avoid interest in her exploits. Her recollection of a delinquent past and many ex-boyfriends is interspersed often through footnotes and catalogues. One of her ex-boyfriends describes her as “a cross between Dirty Harry and Nancy Drew.”

Izzy works for her parents who own a private detective agency. Albert and Olivia Spellman routinely carry out investigations and discover not only their client’s secrets but also their children’s. They have been known to occasionally wiretap their children’s rooms. Once Izzy starts dating a dentist named Daniel and keeps it under wraps her parents diligently attempt to find out the identity of this new man. Just like any caring parent would do they run a background check on him.

The young Rae, Izzy’s little sister, insists on helping with the family business, but doesn’t gain approval. Her attempts to aid investigations often get her, and the family, into trouble. She uses her exceptional spying skills to get blackmail material on her family members. Her preferred payment is candy and snack food.

The one sane member of the family, Izzy’s brother David, escapes the family business. Izzy’s uncle Ray, an alchoholic, gambling, hooker-hiring ex-health nut also lives with the Spellman family. He has a fierce vendetta with his namesake, Rae, after his favorite shirt mysteriously disappears.

Izzy decides to quit the family business in order to maintain her remaining sanity and to salvage her relationship with Daniel. Her parents allow her to escape her contract if she solves a cold case of a boy who went missing 12 years ago. Izzy is forced to solve the investigation while attempting escape from her family’s investigations of her personal life. However, Rae suddenly goes missing, and notes from the kidnapper start to appear. The Spellmans put aside their distrust of one another and band together to find the kidnapper. putting aside their distrust of one another.

The story is cleverly arranged with Izzy enduring interrogation from Inspector Henry Stone, the policeman heading the case of Rae’s kidnapping.

The story is told through her sarcastic and oddball voice, with many obscure detective references thrown in for good measure.

There are a few nice car chases, one of which opens up the story. The book speeds by thanks to Lutz’s readable writing style. The story is fluid even with all its subplots and keeps the reader intrigued to see what crazy thing the Spellmans will do next as well as answering Izzy’s case and Rae’s kidnapping.

The story includes fake cocaine busts, bad experimental cooking, irrational hatred of dentists, kidnappings and lost weekends. The reader won’t be disappointed.

This novel is a sure-fire hit and a must-read. The Spellman saga continues with several other books, offering more crazy cases and antics readers will enjoy.

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