You know those books by new-to-you authors which make you think “oh, I should really try other books by this author”, but it’s not quite I-need-to-go-and-order-other-books-by-this-author-NOW? And then you never actually get around to trying their other books.
Lisa Lutz is one of these not-so-new-to-me authors. I came across a mention of her Spellman books that compared them to Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series* back in January. Enough to intrigue me, and when I asked for opinions, Lys recommended it. Rather serendipitously, I stumbled upon the first book “The Spellman Files” in the library around the same time, enjoyed it, and made a mental note to watch out for the second book when it was released in mass market paperback. Which I promptly forgot about, oh, a couple of weeks later.
Then this week, I was killing time in a bookstore, and spotted “The Curse of the Spellmans” in mmp (helps that the UK cover (right)` is pretty eye-catching, and IMO, captures the slightly offbeat spirit of the series perfectly). I went “ah!”, read the first page, and had to buy it. I mean, when a book starts with this:
Saturday, April 22
“Who is this?”
“Isabel, and don’t ask me again.”
“Mom, it’s really not funny when you do it.”
“Seriously, who is this?”
“I don’t have time for your games right now.”
“Neither do I,” said Mom, finally dropping the amnesia act. “I’ll call you in a few days.”
“Don’t hang up!!!” I shouted into the receiver.
“Isabel, calm down.”
“Just don’t hang up.”
“Because… I only get one phone call.”
Heh. Of course I had to continue reading.
The tagline for the book is the perfect introduction to the Spellman family:
Meet the Spellmans, a family in which eavesdropping is a mandatory skill, locks are meant to be picked and blackmail is the preferred form of negotiation.
To say “Curse of the Spellmans” is crammed with action is an understatement. I mean, for starters, Izzy is convinced their new next-door neighbour’s involved in something illegal (she just needs to figure out what it is), her younger sister Rae is trying to make up for accidentally running over her new friend Inspector Henry Stone (or as Rae puts it, “almost accidentally manslaughtering my best friend”), both her parents are behaving suspiciously (or more than usual, anyway), and her best friend and sister-in-law Petra is avoiding her.
The book is fast-paced and hilarious, helped along with flashbacks, interview transcripts, and lists scattered throughout. All the above plotlines (plus others!) came together very satisfyingly in a coherent whole. The characters, seen though Izzy’s first-person POV, were beautifully sketched out. I loved Izzy but wanted to shake her at times for being so incredibly single-minded, I adored her younger sister Rae and her mad obsessions, and oh, I have high hopes for Inspector Henry Stone. The Spellman family may be complete nutters, but they are family.
Ms Lutz really hit her stride in this second Spellman book – it’s comedy with heart. And it’s safe to say that I’m now ordering the third book “Revenge of the Spellmans”.
*The comparison to Stephanie Plum is not really fair to either, IMO – they’re very different stories, the only similarity is that both Izzy and Stephanie are female. And that the plotlines are completely OTT.