RogerBW's Blog

The Spellman Files, Lisa Lutz 29 January 2021

2007 mystery or at least mystery-adjacent; first in the Spellmans series. Izzy Spellman is a private investigator, from a family of the same. This does not make things simpler when her younger sister goes missing.

Well, there is some investigation here, but this is much more about character than about mystery. Indeed, something like nine-tenths of the book is flashbacks covering Izzy's life up to the point where she's being interviewed about her sister's disappearance.

She's an interesting character, that rarity in real life of someone who's badly messed up in a variety of ways but still interesting rather than monomanic. Dysfunctional family comedy (they all spy on each other and on everyone else any of them meet; Izzy's mother tails her for days in an attempt to find out who her boyfriend is) is less to my taste, but Spellman's first-person voice carried me over this too.

Friday night, an hour before my date with the fraud defense attorney, David called me up and told me to be on my best behavior or there would be repercussions. As I raced out of my apartment to meet Hunter on the street (in an attempt to avoid any parent-lawyer introductions), my mother shouted out the window at me, "Just be yourself, honey." Contradictions like this have made my family life so difficult.

Izzy is a moderately unsympathetic character, most of the rest of the cast are even more so, and yet I did enjoy this in spite of the near-absence of plot; apart from the private eye framing, and a couple of short investigations, this is really more a story about people than about crime. I'd be very cautious about recommending it; even I in a different mood might have hated it, never mind anyone else. (But the series made the NYT Best Seller list repeatedly.)

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