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.
Rating: (very good)
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