Wednesday, June 04, 2008

New Release Spotlight: Curse of the Spellmans

Curse of the Spellmans
by Lisa Lutz

“Without a doubt the restraining order put a cramp in my investigation of Subject.”

That’s not how the second in Lisa Lutz’s series on the Spellman family of private investigators starts. No, a lot more happens before thirty-year-old Izzy Spellman is legally restrained from being near her parents’ neighbor/subject of her own personal investigation/boyfriend.

The Spellman parents run a PI firm, and daughters Izzy and Rae help them; Izzy’s been spying since she was twelve and Rae since she was six. Oldest child David has long distanced himself from the family and its business, becoming a lawyer whose only connection to their work is to sometimes send business to them. The problem is that Izzy, in particular, just can’t stop. Everyone is a suspect to her, and with the help of a portable recorder, she has transcripts of lots of conversations, from witness interviews for actual cases to her mother suggesting to the cop Rae has befriended that he pose as Izzy’s fiancé so that the social worker will stop bugging the family about age-inappropriate friendships.

That kind of device works in the book—what would a first-person narration by a PI be without some transcripts?—but the copious use of footnotes doesn’t. Why do readers even need to be told, “5Morty likes to Yiddishify my name” in reference to her lawyer calling her “Izzila”? And wouldn’t it be stronger to just include “1Who happened to be my partner in crime during most of my delinquent years” at the end of the sentence, “Now David is a lawyer married to my best friend, Petra” instead of in a footnote?

Izzy is an incredibly immature thirty-year-old, which is what leads to a lot of the mishaps and miscommunications that drive a funny-snappy/funny-silly beach read like Curse of the Spellmans. This “charm” would be completely off-putting—when Izzy spends the night at her boyfriend’s, the startled reader may have to remind herself that Izzy’s not a teenager but a grown woman—but Lutz redeems Izzy in a couple ways. This female screwball-detective-novel character is not a “dumb broad.” Her lack of social graces just makes her refreshingly outspoken and frank. And while this reviewer isn’t in the habit of rewarding anyone for being immature, the current media trend—in ads, in movies, and the like—is for men to be unsettled goofballs and women to be super-responsible homemaker CEOs. So if we ever have to go the route of, if you can’t beat ’em join ’em, finally, finally here’s a grown woman who is allowed to follow her impulses, no matter how selfish.

Review by Kristin Thiel, Indigo Editing, LLC

ISBN: 978-1-4165-3241-5; 1-4165-3241-2
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pub Date: March 2008
Hardcover: $25.00

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