Check It Out: The Spellman Files

Nov 24, 2015

Today, I’m recommending a comedic work of crime fiction called The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz. This book was Lutz’s debut novel and has since led to five more books chronicling the dysfunctional but lovable Spellman family.

Isabel “Izzy” Spellman is an uncompromising—okay obstinate—28-year-old San Francisco private eye who has her share of problems. All of those problems all happen to share her last name, Spellman.  Her parents, Albert and Olivia, co-owners of Spellman Investigations, think nothing of placing their daughter under round-the-clock surveillance simply to find out if she has a new boyfriend or not. David, her perfect older brother, escaped the family business by becoming a lawyer, is hypercritical of just about everything she says, wears, or does. 14-year old Rae is a regular old Nancy Drew, whose favorite hobbies include picking locks and conducting surveillance on the family, for blackmail purposes. Lastly, there is Uncle Ray who does some contract work for the firm. A former cop and health food nut, and recent cancer survivor, he has taken to gambling and drinking to make up for lost time, and frequently needs Izzy to rescue him from his liquor-drenched “lost weekends”.

Having started her career with the family business at age 12, Izzy begins to question her lifestyle and its constant hint of deceit and suspicion, when she meets and falls for Daniel Castillo, an ultra-normal dentist. While other parents might be happy to learn that their daughter is dating such a man, Olivia Spellman has a pathological distrust of dentists. When Izzy learns that her folks are not only having her followed, but have hired Rae to do it, she quits the family agency—even though it’s the only job she’s ever had and the only thing she does well.

Izzy’s exit is thwarted by her family who isn’t willing to let her go quite so easily. And besides she is under contract. So, they make a deal—she must take on one last case, a cold case from 12 years ago involving a Marin County teen who went missing in the woods near Lake Tahoe. She throws herself into the case, thrilled at the prospect of getting away from Spellman Investigations for good. Unfortunately for Izzy, the case also peaks her investigative instincts. If that wasn’t bad enough, suddenly her sister Rae disappears without a trace, thrusting Izzy into the most vital missing person case of her career.

Check out this humorous crime fiction story and many more like it at the Sioux City Public Library

Support for Check It Out comes from Avery Brothers.