I read the last 120 pages of this book (in 70 minutes), to kick off MotherReader's 2009 48 Hour Book Challenge. Have I mentioned that I love that the contest is based on time spent, rather than number of books completed? Just makes things that much more flexible.
Revenge of the Spellmans is the third book in Lisa Lutz's series about the Spellman family. While these books are nominally mysteries, they're much more comedy/character study than true mysteries. This would not normally be my thing (regular readers know that I'm all about plot). The plot, such as it is, definitely meanders a bit. But I love the humorous voice of narrator Isabel Spellman. I learned about these books from my librarian, enjoyed the first two, and couldn't resist the third when I ran across it at the library the other day.
The Spellmans are a San Francisco-based family of private investigators. Isabel, a reluctant adult in her early 30's, used to work for her PI parents. However, in the aftermath of an incident covered in the previous book, Izzie is taking some time off from the family business. The start of the book finds her working in a friend's bar, attending court-ordered therapy sessions, and working hard to deny her romantic interest in family friend (and police inspector) Henry Stone. Before long, Izzie is living illegally in a hidden apartment, moving on to her second round of court-ordered therapy, suffering from insomnia, and trying to figure out why her brilliant and difficult high school-age sister "threw" the PSATs. She also takes on a small investigation for a friend of a friend, but the other mysteries tend to be family-and-friend related (and include blackmail, car theft, and the possibility of a gambling problem). Unlike most mystery novels, there's no murder to ignite the plot. Or I guess I should say plots.
I think that the real key to this series, in addition to the humor, is that the characters are delightful. Quirky, yes, but in a sympathetic fashion. I love the relationship between Izzie and her 84-year-old friend (and lawyer) Morty, as well as the improbable friendship between perfectionist cop Henry and teenage Rae. The books have the potential to make a good television series (if you could find a way to preserve Isabel's voice).
While I don't think that these books are for everyone, I do recommend them for fans of the Stephanie Plum series, or anyone who likes humorous mysteries driven by offbeat characters. I should add that the first book went viral in my best friend's extended family, after I passed along my copy. If you're not sure, I suggest that you pick one of the books up and read the first few pages. You may very well find that you just want to keep reading.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 10, 2009
Source of Book: Library copy
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.