The quirky Spellman family is in its normal state --- lovable chaos. Now, 34-year-old Isabel “Izzy” Spellman is the primary investigator for her family’s private eye business. She is in a tenuous relationship with San Francisco Police Inspector Henry Stone. In her eyes, Henry has several flaws. He doesn’t like candy, keeps a clean apartment, likes to iron, and wants to have a serious talk about their relationship. Meanwhile, Henry’s mother Gertrude comes to visit and becomes Izzy’s new drinking partner.
"Happily, TRAIL OF THE SPELLMANS continues the legacy of the previous four installments of the series --- fresh, lively and consistently humorous."
Izzy’s mom and dad are keeping secrets from Izzy and each other. Mom’s nights are suspiciously filled with unusual activities: Russian lessons, book club, crochet, yoga and pottery. Dad is busy munching on “Crack Mix” and building “Chinese Walls.” Izzy’s younger sister and part-time Spellman employee, Rae, is driving the family up a tree while she’s attending college. Older brother David, a former attorney who’s now a stay-at-home dad, is going bananas trying to get his daughter, Sydney, not to call everything “banana.” David’s wife, Maggie, just wants a night out on the town.
There are a few new faces in the household. First, there’s former wrongfully convicted prisoner Demetrius “D” Merriweather, a stellar employee of Spellman Investigations and an amazing cook. Then, there’s Grammy Spellman with her short gray hair that sits on her head “like a helmet” and frown lines “burrowed so deeply into her flesh that you can’t imagine her muscles can fight the gravity to form a smile.”
The Spellmans’ PI business has its own set of problems and unusual clients. Walter, the obsessive math professor who hires Izzy to keep an eye on his apartment, isn’t as innocent as he appears. Then, there are the parents who want detailed reports on the activities of their college co-ed daughter. Business gets dicey after two members of the same family hire the Spellmans for different cases, and Izzy risks her career when she crosses the line.
TRAIL OF THE SPELLMANS is the fifth installment in the enormously humorous Spellman series. Edgar- and Macavity Award-nominated mystery writer Lisa Lutz has a distinct flair for comedy. She does an outstanding job introducing fresh and unforgettable characters while painting laugh-out-loud scenes. Her signature use of footnotes to expand on Izzy’s narrative enhances the reader’s enjoyment. The dossiers at the back of the book also give insight into the main characters’ backgrounds.
While a comic mystery, the core of the story is really about what it means to be a family. No matter how strange or unusual the Spellman family members are, their love for one another shines through in the end. Without being preachy, Lutz also deftly reveals a soft spot for those suffering from illness or living the fringe of society. Happily, TRAIL OF THE SPELLMANS continues the legacy of the previous four installments of the series --- fresh, lively and consistently humorous.
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on March 2, 2012