Friday, February 5

Review: The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Did you miss me? My reviewing muse has been on an extended vacation, which pretty much sucked. It was pretty sad, because the discussion for the buddy review was done, but I just couldn't muster the motivation to put the review together. So a big, big thank you to Christine from The Happily Ever After... for being so patient with me!

What did we review? The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz! Enjoy :D

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
published by Simon & Schuster in March 2007

Meet Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, private investigator. This twenty-eight-year-old may have a checkered past littered with romantic mistakes, excessive drinking, and creative vandalism; she may be addicted to Get Smart reruns and prefer entering homes through windows rather than doors -- but the upshot is she's good at her job as a licensed private investigator with her family's firm, Spellman Investigations. Invading people's privacy comes naturally to Izzy. In fact, it comes naturally to all the Spellmans. If only they could leave their work at the office. To be a Spellman is to snoop on a Spellman; tail a Spellman; dig up dirt on, blackmail, and wiretap a Spellman.

Part Nancy Drew, part Dirty Harry, Izzy walks an indistinguishable line between Spellman family member and Spellman employee. Duties include: completing assignments from the bosses, aka Mom and Dad (preferably without scrutiny); appeasing her chronically perfect lawyer brother (often under duress); setting an example for her fourteen-year-old sister, Rae (who's become addicted to "recreational surveillance"); and tracking down her uncle (who randomly disappears on benders dubbed "Lost Weekends"). But when Izzy's parents hire Rae to follow her (for the purpose of ascertaining the identity of Izzy's new boyfriend), Izzy snaps and decides that the only way she will ever be normal is if she gets out of the family business. But there's a hitch: she must take one last job before they'll let her go -- a fifteen-year-old, ice-cold missing person case. She accepts, only to experience a disappearance far closer to home, which becomes the most important case of her life.

Genre: Mystery
Series: The Spellman, Book #1

The Story: The Spellman Files is the first book of a series of 4 and introduces us to the Spellman family, most specifically the heroine, Isabel. In this book, Isabel is investigating the disappearance of her younger sister, Rae. At the same time, we find out more about the Spellman and their past via old cases and Isabel’s memories.

Nath: So what did you think of The Spellman Files? We are definitively introduced to an interesting family :D

Christine: Oh yes! The Spellman Family is definitely an interesting family. Each and every one of them are quite quirky and the family is rather dysfunctional, don't you think? The way they spy on each other and treat each other with a bit of disrespect is kind of bizarre, but it's their way of life. It's what they know. They may not be completely honest and open with each other, but they're always there for one another, no questions asked. Well, that's not true. They ask a TON of questions! LOL! They definitely care about and love each other, there's no doubt about that. They just have a . . . . "different" way of showing it.

Nath: I agree with you. I love their dynamism and interactions. They are not your typical family… I would say, they are quite eccentric, but that’s who they are. .. and that what makes them stand out so much. And under all that fighting and spying, they do love and care for each other and that what matters :)

I enjoyed Isabel’s character and her narration. She’s a fun person, although most of the time, the laugh is at her expense :P and I liked her voice. She’s not the most mature person around, but that’s part of who she is. She might never get her act together, still she has guts. I do admire her for turning over a new leaf for the sake of her family.

What did you think of the format of the book? It’s not exactly an epistolary format, but close enough. I do think the change of font was a neat idea, although it did require some getting used to.

Christine: I liked the format of the book and think it worked really well for this story. The change in font helped me get used to Izzy's flip flopping thoughts between the past, the present, and her own inner dialogues on random tangents.

Nath: What was your favorite part?

Christine: My favorite part? Oh gosh. That's difficult to pinpoint. The story is quirky, fun and humorous, but there's also some rather serious undertones, too. Let's see .... from the funny side of the story, I think I liked when Izzy met Ex-boyfriend # 9 at the tennis club and then everything she did to keep that relationship going. Learning to play tennis, the lies about her profession, getting her brother involved in the ruse. I don't know, I just found those scenes were both funny and also revealing about Izzy's true self. They showed the person she is to her family and also the person she wants to be to the world--and maybe to herself.

From the more serious part of the book, I really liked the part toward the end when Izzy finds out the truth behind the mystery of the missing person case she was working on. I didn't expect that kind of emotional punch, which was a nice surprise, and in the end, I really liked how the case was resolved.

And you?

Nath: Ugh, this is bad, but I don’t remember the case you’re mentioning ^_^; Must have read the book a bit too fast ^_^;

I thought all her encounters with ex-boyfriends were quite funny LOL. However, my favorite part would be the ending when Izzy finds Rae... and she's all like: I'll kill you... and you have the police and they're trying protect Rae, but Rae is like: No, I need to go with her. LOL :) I thought it was pretty funny, but at the same time, quite realistic. In my opinion, the relationship between Izzy and Rae is quite central to the series :D

Christine: I'm going to agree with you on that scene. It was very funny. Also quite a classic display of how the Spellmans operate. They have their own unique style of tough love. LOL

Nath: From the reviews I’ve seen, there have been many comparisons between this series and the Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich. What do you think? Are there a lot of similarities between the two series? I understand the comparison because this is a comedic mystery, but overall, I think that Izzy is less klutzy than Stephanie and the series a slightly more serious. Also, Izzy appears more competent to me and the series is actually much heavier on family relationships.

Christine: There's no denying they have a fundamental similarity. The tone of the two stories is quite similar with that entertaining combination of a somewhat serious mystery plot laced with quirky humor, driven by an awkward female lead and her entourage of misfit secondary characters. LOL I don't know if they're misfits, per se, but all sort of . . . unusual in their own way?

I'm definitely planning on reading the rest of the series, how about you?

Nath: I am planning on reading the rest of the series. What is nice is that the series is supposed to be only 4 books long. I’m glad to know it won’t be drawn out forever. In addition, I heard from Li that the second book gets better :)

Overall, I think that the first book was very heavy on background information and introducing the family. Yes, there was a case, but it wasn’t really the focus of The Spellman Files. The objective of The Spellman Files was really to introduce us to the family members… and while It did accomplish this, when you put everything together, the book felt a little sketchy and wasn't very fluid. It was a little bit hard to get into because of the mismatched stories and different fonts…

Christine: Once I got the hang of Izzy's style of narration, particularly the way she so easily goes off on tangents, I thought the story moved quickly. There was enough mystery and family drama to keep me turning the pages wanting to see what would happen next. And you have to admit, the dialogue is quite snappy.

Nath: True. The book itself is quite entertaining and I did have a couple of LOL moments :) I'm giving it a B-. I still want to see where the other books will lead us :D

Christine: As far a grade goes, I give The Spellman Files a B.

By the way, did you know there are plans to make The Spellman Files into a movie? It's currently in development, which makes me think filming hasn't even started, but it is projected for 2011. I'm rather excited about that.

Nath: Oh, this would be a fun movie!! And much easier to adapt into screenplay than Stephanie Plum… Of course, it’s all going to depend on the cast…


Monroe Dawson said...

I skimmed the review b/c Ive seen this book around and have wanted to read it!!! I actually forgot that I wanted to read it! lol I need to start writing more books down! lol anyways thanks for the review! And yes Nath we did miss you! ;o)

Christine said...

Monroe, definitely give this book a go. It's a fun read. I ended up promptly reading the second and third books, liking the characters and their stories even more as the series progressed.

Nath, thanks so much for inviting me to do this buddy review with you. It was a lot of fun! You're a sweetheart.. I'd do this again with you anytime. : )

Li said...

You've just reminded me of why I like these books so much!

I picked up the first one because of the comparison to Stephanie Plum, IIRC, but while there are similarities between the two series, especially description-wise, I think they're actually quite different. These books have more depth, IMO. And it's not so obvious in the first book, but I love the way Izzy's grown up over the course of the series.

Hilcia said...

This sounds like such a fun series. I'm putting it down on my list of books to check out. Thank you ladies, great review!

Chantal said...

Ohhh, this sounds good. Thanks for the reviews, gals.

Christine said...

Thanks for checking out the buddy review! I hope you all give this series a try. I loved it more and more with each book.

nath said...

Monroe - LOL, happy I could remind you to read it :D Curious to see what you're going to think of it, Monroe :D

Christine - Exactly what I like to hear, that you're willing to do it again :D I'm adding you to my list of victims LOL!

Li - I gotta agree with you Li. They're quite different and I do agree that this one has more depth, especially in the relationships. The cases are actually there only to tie up the interactions.

Hilcia - I think you would enjoy it :D

Chantal - You're welcome Chantal! Any chance you'll pick this up? :)

Chantal said...

Oh yea, I plan to get it ASAP!:)