Curse Of the Spellmans: Document #2
THE CURSE OF THE SPELLMANS by Lisa Lutz, author of THE SPELLMAN FILES, is above all a story about families. And the Spellman family of San Francisco, California, is a very unique family, for sure.
Private investigator Isabel (Izzy) is the middle child of Spellman Investigation Agency owners Albert and Olivia Spellman. Izzy has worked for the family’s firm since she was 12. She is compulsive about recording conversations, documenting suspicious behavior and compiling lists. Now in her 30s, she has amassed a list of 10 ex-boyfriends --- and an arrest record.
Izzy’s older brother David is a successful lawyer who is married to Izzy’s childhood friend, Petra. Izzy’s teenaged sister Rae is a willful high school student who once faked her own kidnapping. Rae’s “best friend” is Henry Stone, an inspector with the San Francisco Police Department, who has become Izzy’s faux fiancé. And “Uncle” Bernie, who moves to Reno with his ex-Vegas showgirl girlfriend, isn’t really Izzy’s uncle at all.
When Bernie unexpectedly returns to San Francisco heartbroken and alone, Izzy moves out of the rent-controlled apartment she has been subletting from him while he was living in Nevada.
Shortly after moving back to her parents’ home, Izzy becomes obsessed with their new and mysterious neighbor, John Brown (aka “the suspect”). She is convinced that John Brown’s name is an alias and that he is trying to cover up a criminal past. Determined to find out his secret, she begins intensive surveillance. But, when her surveillance methods cross the line, Izzy gets arrested --- not once, but four times in three months.
After her last arrest, her mother refuses to bail her out of jail. Convinced she has done nothing wrong but realizing she could lose her investigator's license, Izzy calls Morty Schilling, a retired lawyer she met in a deli while on a surveillance job, for help.
When she’s not spying on her new neighbor, tape recording conversations or compiling suspicious behavior reports, Izzy is solving cases. Her latest is for Mrs. Chandler, another neighbor, who has hired the Spellman firm to apprehend the vandals who are defacing her holiday yard decorations. This is not the first time her yard has been vandalized. In fact, the most recent destruction is an almost exact replication of destructive handiwork done years ago. Although she has never admitted it, Izzy has firsthand knowledge of who was responsible for the destruction way back when.
The questions remain: Who is guilty of committing the vandalism this time? And what is John Brown hiding?
The mystery of the yard destruction and the secret of the new neighbor are not the mainstays of this novel. The humorous cast of characters, the flip and fast-talking voice of Izzy and the peculiar behaviors of Izzy’s family are what make CURSE OF THE SPELLMANS a delightful read. Lutz has a breezy and unique writing style. Her numerous footnotes and the appendix that lists details about Izzy’s ex-boyfriends help the reader navigate this second book about the strangely lovable Spellman clan.
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on December 29, 2010