Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book Review: Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Spellmans #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Another funny story with the Spellmans
Cons: Izzy and Rae are a tad annoying.
The Bottom Line:
More Spellman antics
Meaning more wonderful laughs
Always worth reading




Revenge is a Dish Best Served Funny

Revenge of the Spellmans is one of those books that is almost impossible to describe.  It is shelved as a mystery and does chronicle the exploits of a family of Private Investigators.  Yet the mystery element is really minimal.  Instead, the book is more about the family dynamics of a very dysfunctional family.  The results are hilariously funny and well worth reading.

The Spellmans run Spellman Investigations in San Francisco.  It was founded by Albert and Olivia.  Our main character is Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, the 31-year-old grown daughter.  This book finds her taking a break from the family business, where she has been employed since she was twelve.  Also going into the family business is Rae, the sixteen-year-old daughter.  The only family member not in the business is oldest child David, who has become a successful lawyer.

The thing is, being PI's have given the family no sense of boundaries.  They don't ask each other questions, they investigate each other.  Of course, since no one is completely honest, there is plenty to investigate.

Actually, before I go on, I should offer a disclaimer.  These books really do need to be read in order.  While I don't remember any specific spoilers of the previous book, a major plot point of the first book is given away.  (It really has to be.)  This book constantly refers to events from the previous books (with reminders they are available in paperback).  So even if nothing is spoiled, you'll want to read them to fully understand the references.

Chronologically, this book starts five months after the last one ended.  (And it only does one time jump instead of the multiple time jumps the others do.)  Izzy is living in a studio apartment she hates, but she is enjoying her time off from investigating.  Tending bar isn't a bad way to make a living for a few months.  She is counting down the sessions of her court ordered therapy (a result of getting too close to "John Brown" in the last book), content to drift for a while.

But then Milo, Izzy's boss, asks her to take on a case for a friend.  Ernest thinks his wife may be cheating on him.  Izzy follows the woman and is about to complete a report (the wife isn't cheating) when she discovers another PI following the woman.  Curiosity aroused, Izzy digs further.

Meanwhile, Rae has been accused of cheating on her PSAT, and Izzy moves into David's basement apartment without telling him.  All this leads to Izzy being bribed (for what she doesn't know) and blackmailed (for what she doesn't know, but the demands have more to do with culture than money).  Looks like it's just another day in the life of this wacky family.

At this point, I hardly raised an eye brow at some of the things that happen to Izzy.  When you read these books, you have to expect the strange and unusual.  While I laughed quite a bit, I didn't find this book quite as funny as the previous two.  Maybe I'm getting too used to the characters and their life.

The multiple storylines weave in and out effortlessly.  In fact, the book uses non-traditional breaks to help us keep everything straight.  While there is only one real mystery in the book, it is light compared to the normal mystery book and is a sub-plot to the family drama.  The family is more than enough to keep the pages turning.  I really do want the best for these characters.

On the character front, I must admit I am getting a little tired of Izzy.  Her refusal to grow up worked for a  book or two, but at this point I found it slightly annoying at times.  Likewise, Rae is going from being a funny, cute kid to a frightening young woman.  There does seem to be some maturing near the end of the novel.  I hope that continues in the next book.

There are several good recurring characters who show up here again.  They continue to be well developed and add to the book.  On the family front, David continues to be the most interesting character in my eyes.  I especially liked him here and can't wait to see where he goes in the next book.  The amazing thing is, even in this comedy, all the characters do come off as real and not caricatures, although they do walk that line at times.

The book continues to be written with footnotes, and appendix, and transcripts of conversations as recorded by Izzy.  Yes, this novel is not your traditional piece, but that is part of what makes it so much fun.

You have to be in the right mindset to enjoy Revenge of the Spellmans.  Sit down planning to read a funny, off the wall novel, and you won't be disappointed.

You'll get the most out of these books if you read the Spellman series in order.

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