Last month, thanks to Jaclyn’s review of Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files, I checked it out from the library, intrigued. A family of private investigators whose main recreational activity is spying on each other? A main character touted as “Dirty Harry meets Nancy Drew?” Sounded fun to me.
As you can see above, I checked out the rest of the series, pronto (not pictured: the latest, Trail of the Spellmans). I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Isabel “Izzy” Spellman and her crazy family. (I also love that the titles are based on the classic Pink Panther films, which I adore.)
Isabel, at 28, is good at two things: drinking and investigating people (though not usually at the same time). She loves her work, but she’s deeply ambivalent about working for her parents, especially when they try to investigate her boyfriends. She tries to get out of the business a few times, but (you can guess) she always comes back to her family and her career, both of which she loves even when they’re completely maddening.
These books are part fiction, part mystery: while Izzy and her family are always trying to crack a few cases, the real fun lies in their complicated interactions with each other. Rebel child Izzy, her strait-laced brother David, brilliantly snarky little sister Rae, and their quirky parents spend a lot of time tracking each other, keeping secrets, hiding intelligence and/or using it to blackmail each other. But they really do love one another, and someone (usually Rae or Izzy) always ends up in hilarious trouble. Lutz’s real strength is in her snappy dialogue, and the minor characters, from bartender Milo (who serves Rae ginger ale) to ancient Jewish lawyer Morty, are just as quirky and lovable as the Spellmans.
Five books in, the Spellman “kids,” while all technically adults, have done a fair bit of growing up and facing down their own issues, but I’m sure there’s more fun to be had. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Document #6, as Lutz has called the next book. If you’re hankering for a bit of PI fun with a hefty dose of wacky family dynamics, I highly recommend this series.