All In the Family

I’ve been in a bit of a book funk lately. Just can’t seem to find a really good one--you know, the kind that makes you excited to get back to it when you’ve had to put it down. The kind where all you want to do it sit and read for a few gloriously uninterrupted hours. The kind that you’re bummed to finish because there’s no way the next one will live up to it and only disappointment lies ahead. I want a book like that.

I can’t recall how the Spellmans came into my life--probably a review in some library journal. It doesn’t matter because they’ve saved me. In The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz, we meet Izzy Spellman, age 28. Izzy has a much younger sister, Rae, and a chronically perfect, type-A older brother, David. The kids have been brought up in the family business of private investigation, to either their benefit or detriment, depending on the kid.

David is an overachiever who ran far and fast from the family business as soon as he could to become a high-powered attorney. Rae, age 14, is chronically addicted to recreational surveillance and sugary food items. Izzy, the middle child, has attended multiple colleges and universities without completing a degree, can’t seem to hold down a “normal” job, has a past littered with romantic mistakes and slightly excessive drinking, and prefers to enter and exit the family home via windows rather than doors. Mom and Dad just try to maintain some sense of sanity and keep the business afloat as they squeeze in the occasional “disappearance” of their own, family code for a weekend away by themselves.

Curse of the Spellmans has been nominated both for an Edgar Award and a Macavity Award, and those of you who read mysteries know what a big deal that is. And honestly, I liked the other two in the series better, so that tells you how good they really are.

One reviewer called the series “Harriet the Spy for grownups” another says “part Columbo, part nightmarish Nancy Drew.” Whatever. It’s always a starred review no matter who's doing the reviewing, which in the book biz means you need to pay attention because people are gonna be asking for it. And for good reason.

There’s talk that a Spellman movie is in the works but we all know that the books are always better.