Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: The Last Word by Lisa Lutz (aka Spellman Six: The Next Generation) (Spellman Document #6)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters, laughs, and story
Cons: Too easy to lose track of time while reading
The Bottom Line:
Isabel as boss
More family wackiness
With serious heart

How to Make a Hostile Takeover Worse

When it comes to wacky, dysfunctional families, I’m not sure any top the Spellmans.  While they seem to be maturing a little (this is book six after all), there is still plenty of wacky and humor in the latest, The Last Word.

Need a crash course?  Our guide to this world is Isabel Spellman, the middle daughter in the family.  The family business is Spellman Investigations.  That’s right, this is a family of PI’s, yet they seem to want to keep as much secret from each other as possible.  As a result, the entire family is often off on one wacky misadventure after another.  Meanwhile, there are cases to be solve.  And somehow, the books always seem to end on a more serious note than you’d expect.

At the end of the last book, Isabel Spellman had just successfully conducted a hostile takeover of her family’s PI firm.  It’s been six months since we last saw them, and in that time, things have not gone smoothly.  Her parents have started coming to work (the front room of their house) in their PJ’s (if Isabel is lucky), that is if they decide to work at all.  Isabel is drowning in paperwork and struggling to understand the finances, something her mother always did.  Rae has expressed a little renewed interest in the family business, but only as a Conflict Resolution Specialist, whatever that means.

And what little business they have is confusing Isabel.  Her boss/benefactor Edward Slayter asks her to look into a business that seems almost too perfect.  Edward also seems to be the target of something at work, but he can’t determine what.  They are trying to free another wrongfully convicted inmate, but someone is trying to warn them off.  And employee Vivien wants help with a moving company that ripped her off.  Will anything be resolved?

If this seems like a lot of story, don’t worry.  As we flow from one plot line to another, it is all handled so smoothly you have no trouble keeping track of it at all.  That includes a few flashbacks to scenes that have happened in the six months between books.

While these are usually classified as mysteries (and the reason I started reading the first one), they are really more tales of a dysfunction family who just happens to be PI’s.  Yes, there are a few cases, but they aren’t handled in the traditional methods of the genre.  If you pick up the book looking for a traditional type mystery, you’ll be disappointed.

But I quickly got over that with the first book and have enjoyed each one since.  Why?  Because they are just plain fun.  The antics of the characters are wacky and provide many good laughs.  And the story is so interesting it pulls me into the book.  I get so lost in the pages the time just flies by – not a good thing when you are reading on your lunch hour.

The characters are deeply flawed, especially Isabel.  That makes me like them all the more.  Yes, they are likable enough to make you care about the outcome.  And the growth we see between books is pretty remarkable.

Which brings me to the whole reading them in order thing.  Yes, it’s best to read them that way.  But only one storyline from book one is truly spoiled, although there are references to other events along the way.  However, you miss out on character interactions and growth that are a real joy by this point in the series.

And yes, the footnotes continue.  Think of them as asides in the narration – and pretty funny ones at that.  They are often the best laughs in a chapter.

As usual, things do get more serious in the final third of the book, and the endings always leave me in a serious mood for a few hours.  It’s a good novel hangover.

If you are worried about the title – don’t be.  At the book signing I went to, author Lisa Lutz started by stating there will be more Spellman novels.  But the title makes sense as you work your way through the book.  And that’s all I will say.

So if you are looking for a comedy with some kick at the end, pick up The Last Word.  It is another completely entertaining visit to the Spellmans.

NOTE: This book was published in paperback as Spellman Six: The Next Generation.

These books are best read in order, so be sure to read the Spellman Documents in order.

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