Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Family Affair

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Prior to penning The Spellman Files, Lisa Lutz's claim to fame was writing a mob farce called Plan B that spent ten years in development hell, and writing about it for Salon. Sadly, more people probably read this article than heard of Plan B.

But Lutz is a tough cookie who made her peace with the whole debacle, and went on to write this very snarky, clever book about a family of private investigators who behave worse than the people they tail.

The narrator, Izzy, is a rehabilitated juvenile delinquent who still lives with and works for her parents (who met during separate stake-outs). Older brother David managed to escape the family clutches and become successful; however, Izzy is stuck in a sort of stunted adolescence, doing background checks on all prospective boyfriends and occasionally passing out on the front lawn. Her little sister, Rae, is another story altogether. Part Harriet M. Welch, part Veronica Mars, part Ramona Quimby, Rae is a strangely endearing little pill who is entirely too smart for her own good. Ole Golly would be calling Nanny 911 if Rae were her charge.

But despite the fact that the Spellman's all do surveillance on each other and are generally awful people, you can't help but grudgingly love them.

The action of the book takes quite awhile to kick in, as Lutz spends a good deal of time introducing her characters and establishing the family's history. This is, oddly, the best part of the book. The main plot, which involves Izzy taking on "one last case" before planning to leave the family business for good, is a little thin. However, the Spellman's antics are funny, maddening, and genuinely inventive enough to carry the book.

If you liked...: Harriet the Spy, The Royal Tenenbaums, and David Sedaris's essays, this book is for you.

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