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Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

 Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

A couple of years ago, at a wedding (a crazy wedding at that), I was chatting to a couple of Aussies who had relocated to San Francisco in order to seek investment for their tech start-up. Or, more accurately, they’d relocated near San Francisco, because apparently the rent there is so high that it’s liable to give you a nose bleed. And I thought Melbourne was bad.

Anyway, having heard this little anecdote, I wasn’t surprised to read about poor (literally and figuratively) San Fran native and private investigator Izzy Spellman deciding to squat in her brother’s downstairs apartment. It’s crime that pays, after all, not solving crimes.

Things aren’t looking up for Izzy. Not only does she have to endure twelve weeks of court-ordered therapy after a misunderstanding about the differences between stalking and friendliness, but she’s lost her job and her flat, has to play chauffeur to her 84-year-old lawyer, and is stuck playing go-between in the ongoing battle between her snarky teen sister and her best friend Henry (whom she’s definitely not in love with. Probably.). She’s also being blackmailed by someone forcing her to wash her father’s car and visit the Museum of Modern Art. Dastardly.

To say that Izzy Spellman courts chaos is an understatement. Izzy and disaster are seen together roughly as often as garlic and bad breath. And given the delis Izzy frequents, well, you know where this is heading.

Anyway, amidst all this family drama, and there’s a heck of a lot of family drama–enough that Izzy has an extra twelve weeks of therapy slapped on to her sentencing–there’s also a mystery. Or several. A routine investigation of a maybe-cheating spouse turns into something more elaborate when Izzy realises that there’s a politician’s reputation on the line, and Izzy finds herself caught up in all manner of ludicrous shenanigans as she tries to get to the bottom of the investigation while also attempting to solve the much more problematic issues of the zany Spellman family.

Revenge of the Spellmans is the third in Lisa Lutz’s Izzy Spellman series, but stands quite readily on its own. It’s a zany, silly ride, and the mystery side of things takes a back seat (a back seat so far back that it might as well be in a limo) to the unending dysfunction of the Spellmans themselves. But that’s not a bad thing at all. Their mishaps are endlessly comic, and there are a lot of laughs, although I have to say that at some 350 pages, the book did begin to feel a little long, and could have done with some trimming. There are some design issues in the edition I read as well: the font is achingly small and narrow, making it a tough read, and the constant footnoted asides and referenced appendices disrupted flow of the book rather than adding to it.

Still, I always get a bit of a kick out of seeing a family that’s more dysfunctional than my own, and I plan to go back and read the others in this very, very silly series.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, things turned out a little better for those tech start-up guys than for Izzy, whose rental situation doesn’t exactly improve by the end of the book. Those start up guys? They sold their app to Disney for a cool sum involving many, many zeroes.

And went to Vegas for a week-long party.

And now live in San Francisco, not near it.

Damn them.

Rating: star Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutzstar Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutzstar Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutzhalfstar Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutzblankstar Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (very good)

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 Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

14 comments

  1. I listen to these on audio, and only have one left to go. Narrator Christina Moore does a great job with all the voices, and really brings out the humor. Agree with you that #3 was a tad long; in #4, the family veers a little into the realm of beyond-dysfunctional. But I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in #5, Trail of the Spellmans!

    • Stephanie /

      I’d imagine that these would be great fun in audio, Laurie. How did the narrator go about reading the Q&A style scenes and the footnotes?

      • The narrator read the transcripts out, and used the voices of the characters so you’d know who was talking. The footnotes were done in a faster, “just as a quick aside” kind of voice, so you could tell it was a footnote. Since Izzy tells most of the story in the first-person voice, it’s the kind of book I especially like to listen to, but the narrator Christina Moore has a distinctive voice for each of the other characters that she used whenever Isabelle is relaying a conversation or playing a tape of a family meeting or an interview.

        • Stephanie /

          Ah, thanks for that, Laurie! Christina Moore sounds like a great narrator. :)

  2. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out /

    This is a fun series though I haven’t read the latest yet – its on my list!

    • Stephanie /

      I’m going to go back and pick up the others. The second one is currently super cheap on Booktopia, so I might do a bit of shopping :)

  3. I’ve had these on my must-get-to list for a while now. Will have to give them a go. Apart from anything else, as a writer, I’m fascinated by that line between quirky and a little annoying. It will be interesting to see what side of the line they fall for me. Thanks for another great review! I love how you tie in the anecdotes!

    • Stephanie /

      They’re really good fun, Imelda. There are a few times where the family definitely crosses into annoying, but mostly they stick to quietly zany. If anything, it’s Izzy who’s the toughest to deal with!

      I’m so glad you like my little anecdotes. Although I’m still jealous over the whole Disney thing! Hopefully one day we’ll be in the same boat. :)

      • Nothing ventured, nothing gained! I’m sure those people spent a fair while wondering where their next dinner was coming from too, or in equivalent stress. At the rate you work, I’m sure you’ll have your Disney moment one day!

        • Stephanie /

          They did indeed, and at the time we were commiserating over our shared suffering! It’s amazing how one’s fortunes can change so quickly. All it takes is one yes. :)

          • One of the advantages of getting older is taht you realise that success is almost always the result of a LOT of hard work and don’t feel so bad about the amount you seem to have to do to get anywhere.

        • Stephanie /

          Exactly–overnight success is rarely that!

  4. You should enjoy the Stephanie Plum series if you like this one :-)

    • Stephanie /

      I’ll definitely pick it up. Jami (in the comments above) is also a fan of Evanovich, so it sounds as though I’m missing out!

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