Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rosy's scrawled book recommendation: The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

The Spellman Files
Lisa Lutz

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.

Simon & Schuster


Rosy's Scrawlings on The Spellman Files
This book is a breath of fresh air within the detective genre. It isn't entirely one to stand separate from all the other books but it does join a very select group against the masses on murderers, serial killers, child molesters, kidnappers, human traffickers, vicious thieves who know no mercy when crossed, mobsters, gangsters and so on and so forth. Instead, the focus is on the smaller issues of life. Well, smaller if you're looking at the dramatic events that impact society but not smaller for those living in such situations. As everyone knows, family can be everything. And when those within a family start acting up and playing games there can be much that needs working through before any degree of enlightenment is found. That's mostly what this book is about. Using detective skills to survive family turmoil and continue the agency.
While I know this book is not going to be every one's cup of tea as even the word family can have people shrinking away as they immediately become stressed, I would say that there are a great many who anyone would enjoy this. The touch is light and the turmoil is at about the same level as the Simpson's episode when Lisa declares herself a vegetarian. Most of the events in this book will make you either laugh or shake your head in exasperation.
I also loved that the heroine isn't exactly the most stable of characters. She's a little self-involved but not offensively so and she cares greatly for her family. She's a little hopeless yet good at her job and her extra spying activities. She's paranoid but mostly due to the environmental pressures of her family members and rivals in business rather than by nature. And she definitely leaps before she looks and draws wild conclusions quickly.
The text is divided into small sections, written in diary, notebook, email etc formats so there is an air of tracking events and noting the important details. The sections do make the story seem to pass faster but oddly enough the pace is fairly moderate. As all the details seem so light that it does take a little to realise you should be trying to figure out what's going on. So in essence I found this story highly entertaining and playful as well as less stressful than most detective stories.

I'd suggest this book to: Anyone who wants a break from their detective stories always revolving around murders. This book will appeal to women more than men but I believe it would be a fun read for anyone needing a light dose of detection along with some unusual semi-dysfunctional family squabbling that includes many a manipulative trick.  This book is great for a lazy weekend read and for reading in short bursts on a train (or the like).

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