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The Spellman Files review

November 6, 2008

51c-j1c6ovl_sl500_aa240_From the Publisher:

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.

Review and Grade: A

This book was just plain fun. An easy read without entirely lacking substance, it reads the way Get Smart is watched: creative, sassy and utterly ridiculous. Through all of the crazy adventures, Izzy rings true and her good intentions toward the crazy cast of characters makes these inplausable scenarios manageable. Isabel Spellman is the kind of female detective character that I think the literary world has been missing. At the very least, she is the kind of person worth following around for a three hundred pages just to see what she will get herself into (and how Lisa Lutz will describe it).

There are a number of things I have picked up and added to my everyday life from this book, particularly the method of documenting ex-boyfriends. I’ll give an example (from the book, not my life).

Ex-boyfriend #5:

Name: Fuller, Joshua

Age: 25

Occupation: Web designer

Hobby: Alcoholic Anonymous

Duration: 3 months

Last words: “Our relationship is a threat to my sobriety.”

Isabel is sweet, lovable and undoubtedly crazy and Lutz has a creative mind that could make reading about a rock interesting. I recommend this book to anyone into detective stories that don’t take themselves too seriously and know how to have fun! Make that any story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, for that matter.

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