Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review of The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (2007, Simon and Schuster)

Isabel Spellman is 28, lives in San Francisco, and has worked for her parent’s PI company, Spellman Investigations since she was 12.  In contrast to her near-perfect older brother, Izzy was a rebellious teenager, in trouble with the law several times, and a constant headache for her parents.  She still ploughs her own furrow, constantly battling with her family, especially her mother and younger sister, Rae, and cycles through boyfriends on a fairly regular basis.  Knowing how to snoop into someone’s life, to tail them covertly, and to pick locks and to break and enter has its positives and negatives.  Living in a family with the same skills, who also possess devious and manipulative streaks, can be a nightmare.  Izzy has finally reached the end of the line - she wants out of the family house and business.  Her parents reluctantly agree, but will only provide a reference if she solves one last case; the most difficult one on their books. 

I ordered The Spellman Files as it had been described to me fitting into the ‘tart noir’ sub-genre.  When the book arrived the cover conveyed ‘chick-lit’ and I wasn’t at sure the book would be to my taste.  Thankfully the cover is somewhat misleading, especially since the main character, Izzy, is more likely to dress like a Nirvana fan than a lead character in Sex in the City.  That said, The Spellman Files is kind-of Bridget Jones as private investigator.  The result is a humorous tale of family in-fighting, failed romances, and a difficult cold case.  The real strength of the book is the characterisation of idiosyncratic and somewhat dysfunctional Spellman family, who run a detective agency and know all manner of spying and tracking tricks, and their various interactions and escapades.  The cold case Izzy is working on is interesting and has a nice resolution, and to provide context, Lutz slots in a lot of back story via a series of entertaining side tales.  Overall, an enjoyable, well told story that is more than a chick-lit foray into crime fiction.

1 comment:

TracyK said...

I have this on my TBR pile... it has been there awhile. I have heard good things about it, even though it does not seem like my kind of book. Glad you have good things to say about it.