A co-worker of mine recommended the book, The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz. I had never heard of the book or the author. I believe this is the first in a series of books. I wasn’t sure what to think, but the back of the book compared the heroine to a combination of Bridget Jones and Columbo. I thought perhaps I needed to give the book a try and I’m glad I did.
I’ve been watching the TV series, Pysch, over the last few months and found this novel to have some similarities. The Spellmans are a family of private investigators that consist of the Mom and Dad (Albert and Olivia), their adult daughter, Isabelle, the narrator and heroine, their 14-year old daughter, Rae, and Albert’s brother, Ray (yeah, Rae and Ray have the same name). They also have an older son, David, who is not a part of the family business (he’s a lawyer), but nevertheless, tends to get dragged into the family’s mishaps.
While The Spellman Files does not have continuous references to 80’s pop culture or have the likes of Ally Sheedy popping up as a serial killer with bad teeth like Psych does, the smart wit of the characters and the clever plot lines in which the characters find themselves made me think of the TV show. The characters are all rather quirky as they take on assignments from clients to follow wayward husbands, suspected criminals, and at times, each other – or in the case of Rae, she follows people just for recreational purposes.
Isabelle is 28 years old and has always lived in the shadow of her perfect brother, even though he chose not be a part of “Spellman Investigators”. She keeps a list of all her ex-boyfriends, their occupations, hobbies and final words. During this novel she meets what she refers to as “Ex-Boyfriend #9”, a dentist – without going into too much detail, her parents prefer lawyers over dentists. As with most dysfunctional families, she has a love-hate relationship with all of them.
Rae and Ray gave me the most laughs. Ray is a former frugal, tee-totaling, health-nut. I say former because when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer around the time of Rae’s birth (hence, her name), but then recovered (after Rae was born), he decided to turn over a new leaf and became a junk food junkie, alcoholic, woman-chasing, gambler. Rae, who tends to be in an on-again, off-again war with her Uncle namesake, and is too young to really be a part of the family business, nevertheless, does everything she possibly can to help out with the cases (even when she’s not asked) – and is actually very good at surveillance. One point of contention between the two of them is that Uncle Ray eats all the bridge mix except the filberts. Rae also hangs out at Isabelle’s bar, the Philosophy Club, much to the dismay of the bartender, Milo, to whom she pours out all of her teenage angst over ginger-ale (after each sip she makes a “hard-liquor grimace”).
I’m probably not going to read the rest of the series immediately, but I highly recommend them for anyone wanting some fun, but smart, comedy. I’ll have to put the rest of the series on my list for the near future, though.