Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz

The Spellman Files is one very fun book. The Spellmans are a family of private eyes: the parents start the kids on background checks and simple surveillance at an early age. Naturally, they use the techniques at hand to handle family issues -- e.g when Mom wants to check out our heroine Izzy's new boyfriend or when Izzy wants to dodge said surveillance. The youngest child, Rae, the real star of the story, finds recreational surveillance a great game, and a new telephoto lens the perfect gift. The oldest, David, has managed to escape (more or less) to a career as a lawyer, but when he explains to a young Rae what he does ("negotiate"), he adds blackmail as another useful tool to the family's arsenal of dispute resolution techniques.

Only the thinness of the plot kept me from awarding a star to this very original and entertaining addition to the mystery field.


  1. I really liked this book, and think it deserves your star even though the "mystery" element is not the strongest engine of the plot. To me, it does have a strong plot, which involves the re-integration of Izzy into the family, which is something necessary to health and survival -- as is poignantly made clear at the end, in ways not to be divulged to those who haven't read the book.

    I also think there is something interesting and purposeful about the ways in which the major mysteries (the two disappearances) resolve -- some might find the resolution a little disappointing, but I think upon reflection points are being made about "mystery" books and the melodramatic imagination.

  2. I may ended up starring it when the paperback comes out. I do find myself still reflecting on it from time to time (one of the most important tests of "star material") and when I started THE CURSE OF THE SPELLMANS, second in the series, I started smiling almost at once with the pleasure of meeting what ha apparently become beloved old friends. I didn't mind there not being a traditional murder mystery resolution in either of the cases, but did find the resolution of the cold case Izzy was working on a little too implausible to be satisfying, but perhaps I can forgive that in the interests of the thematic issue you raise. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I did actually end up starring it when the paperback came out.