Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

I have just made the acquaintance of the crazy-funny family The Spellmans of San Francisco. They are a private investigation family that is made up of: 

Albert and Olivia, aka Dad and Mom, founders and owners of Spellman Investigations.  Albert is a retired police detective who met Olivia on a stakeout. 

David, the perfect son who left the family business to become a highly paid attorney and sends background check work the agency's way. 

Isabel, the twenty-nine-year old narrator of the action. She has a sketchy past full of youthful indiscretions, mostly wears leather and denim, in a pinch is not above sleeping in the backseat of her Buick, and refers to her ex-boyfriends by number. 

Rae, the fourteen-year-old youngest daughter, is addicted to sugar in any form but especially Froot Loops, enjoys 'recreational surveillance', and has long soulful chats over a glass of ginger ale with Milo the bartender at the neighborhood hangout.

Ray, Albert's brother, is also a former policeman and now lives on beer, high-stakes poker games, and has a tendency to disappear on lost weekends.

All of the characters created by author Lisa Lutz in her first novel/mystery The Spellman Files (2007) live and work together in a four-story Victorian house. No one seems to think anything of following other family members to see what they are up to or bugging private phone conversations or snapping surveillance photos of each other. 

When Isabel tries to quit the PI business, she gets one more case: What Happened to Andrew Snow?  Andrew went missing fourteen years ago. Just disappeared on a camping trip with his brother. The parent Spellmans worked the case at the time of Andrew's disappearance and the file gets reopened as a condition of Isabel's exit from the agency.

But most of action comes as Isabel relates tales from the family history, investigations into prospective boyfriends, blackmail, stake outs, car chases, picked locks, interrogations, and just general mayhem and hilarity.

I am crazy about the Spellmans. Ms. Lutz has written a funny, funny tale that swept me along for its 350 pages. The dialogue is breezy and the characters are just fun to be with. There was never a dull moment. 

It had everything I like: mystery, humor, idiosyncratic characters, and plenty of action. Plus, I learned a bit about the ins and outs of the life of a PI. I am glad to see that there are five more "Spellman Files" in this series to investigate.


  1. I had just heard about this book someplace else (I forget where), and was happy to see your review of it. It sounds like great fun, and right up my alley.

    1. I read two of the Spellman books right in a row! If you like humor with your mystery, as I do, I think you will like these.