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The Spellman Files: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 13, 2007

379 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cracking the case can get complicated and outrageously wacky when a family of detectives is involved, but Lutz has a blast doing it in her delicious debut. Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, a San Francisco PI who began working for Spellman Investigations at age 12, could easily pass as Buffy or Veronica Mars's wiser but funnier older sister. Izzy digs TV, too, especially Get Smart (an ex-boyfriend's ownership of the complete bootlegged DVD set is his major selling point). Now 28, Izzy thinks she wants out, but elects to take on a cold case while dealing with 14-year-old sister Rae, a nightmarish Nancy Drew, and parents who have no qualms about bugging their children's bedrooms. At times the dialogue-heavy text reads like a script and the action flags, but these are quibbles. When Rae suddenly disappears, Izzy and her family must learn some serious lessons in order to find her. Can the family that snoops together stay together? Stay tuned as a dynamic new series unfolds. 150,000 first printing. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series will enjoy this clever debut (the first in a series) featuring Izzy Spellman, an irrepressible 28-year-old sleuth who works for her parents' San Francisco PI firm. Members of the dysfunctional and relentlessly nosy Spellman clan include Izzy's 14-year-old sister, Rae, who engages in recreational surveillance (a fancy term for tailing people just for kicks), and her uncle Ray, a cancer survivor and recovering health-food addict who regularly disappears on liquor-drenched "Lost Weekends." Scenes showcasing the relationships among the various Spellmans are often laugh-out-loud funny. (The novel's prologue is an amusing example of the boundaries--or lack thereof--between Izzy and her mom and dad). Alas, bit after comic bit does not a mystery novel make, and only toward the end does Lutz pick up the narrative pace. Addicted to Get Smart reruns and forever attracted to the wrong kind of men, Izzy Spellman is definitely an appealing heroine; all this series needs to become a smashing success is a more generous dose of story and suspense. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416532390
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416532392
  • ASIN: B0012F48KU
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (379 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,161,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lisa Lutz is the New York Times bestselling author of The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, The Spellmans Strike Again, Trail of the Spellmans and Heads you Lose (with David Hayward). Lutz has won the Alex award and has been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Although she attended UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, the University of Leeds in England, and San Francisco State University, she still does not have a bachelor's degree. Lisa spent most of the 1990s hopping through a string of low-paying odd jobs while writing and rewriting the screenplay Plan B, a mob comedy. After the film was made in 2000, she vowed she would never write another screenplay. How to Negotiate Everything a children's book (illustrated by Jaime Temairik) will be released in 2013 along with The Last Word, the sixth installment in the Spellman series. Lisa lives in a town you've never heard of in upstate New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Anne Parker on March 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Is it a mystery? Well, not exactly, athough it contains at least one genuine whodunit. A comedy? Again, not exactly, although the comic pacing is perfect. A coming of age tale? Hmmm, no, but several characters do come of age in the book. Drama? No, too funny, with lots of action and a minimal amount of reflecting on the meaning of events. The Spellmans are a family of private detectives who wiretap, tail, photograph and blackmail each other as an alternative to more conventional ways of showing love.

As with the charming #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, this book defies easy classification but is mesmerizing from start to finish and hilarous to boot. It could be addictive. I'll be watching for more from Lisa Lutz.
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66 of 68 people found the following review helpful By wordsmith on March 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Spellman Files is a hilarious, entertaining read with snarky characters, cinematic chase scenes (with a familial twist) and spot-on dialogue. But it's really the clever, disarming voice of 28-year-old P.I. Izzy Spellman that wins you over. A strong dose family dynamics kicks this novel into a higher gear than your typical romantic comedy or suspense novel. Izzy is a private eye in a Royal Tanenbaum-esque family of private eyes who don't know boundaries when it comes to privacy or the invasion of it. One of the early scenes says it all: Izzy, sensing she's being followed in a parking garage, gets in her car and screeches out of the garage. A dizzying car chase through the steep streets of San Francisco follows and, after Izzy can't shake her tail, she stops the car, gets out, walks over to the car chasing her and, as the window rolls down, says, "Mom. Dad. This has to stop." The Spellman Files continues in that vein, with action-packed scenes followed by a comedic punch at just the right moment. You'll be laughing out loud every few pages.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Mark Baker - Carstairs Considers HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Meet the Spellman Family. The older generation is made up of Albert, his wife Olivia, and his brother Ray. Albert and Olivia own and run Spellman Investigations, a PI firm in San Francisco. Among their employees are their two daughters, twenty-something Izzy and 14-year-old Rae. The only member of the family to escape the PI business is Izzy's older brother David who became a lawyer.

The family is anything but normal. Uncle Ray regularly vanishes for extended weekends and only returns when tracked down. Izzy regularly runs a complete background check on her boyfriends so her parents can't surprise her with anything later. Rae thinks "recreational surveillance" is a hobby

And no one respects anyone else's privacy. Double and triple locks on bedroom doors mean nothing. Yet that doesn't mean that people don't have secrets. And life in the Spellman house can be very entertaining and funny.

Even though this book deals with private investigators, this isn't a mystery novel. Yes, there are a few mysteries, but that isn't the point. The book is all about exploring the family dynamic of a very dysfunctional family. Yet it does it with love, warmth, and humor. We get the story from Izzy's point of view. And while she is often frustrated with her family, we can tell she loves them.

The book starts out a little slowly, but the laughs pick up as the story progresses. I found myself laughing out loud several times and chucking many more. The characters seem like types on the surface, but once we get to know them, we see so much more.

This book is quirky, offbeat, and well worth reading. If that sounds like something you would like, track down this book today.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stately Plump on April 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"The Spellman Files" is great. It's amusing, and often laugh-out-loud funny. The best thing about it is that it is real - the narrator, "Izzy," is droll and funny but her voice is casual and absolutely believable, and, unlike so many comedies and so many mysteries, neither the people nor the situations involved are exaggerated beyond the quite possible.

The only way to be disappointed by the book, I think, is if you go in expecting a traditional mystery novel. This book is much closer to a family comedy, or even workplace comedy, than it is to a book that hangs its story on a big mystery to be solved by the central character, preferably with gunfire. "The Spellman Files" is not one of those books, and though it is funny, it has serious underpinnings, which become evident by the end. It is about, among other things, family and the real fears that families share and protect each other against; the real fear for most of us, and for the Spellmans, isn't whether evil Professor Moriarty will push us over a cliff, but whether we'll make the mistake of stepping off a cliff of our own free will. The good news for the reader is that the Spellmans react to their fears in a very funny way.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Claire McManus on June 8, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Book Club Review
by Lisa Lutz

Our book club's book for June was THE SPELLMAN FILES, by Lisa Lutz. Several of us had heard about the series, but none of us had read it, and we thought it sounded like great fun. Having read a few books that were later in series and having been disappointed in them, we decided we'd start with the first book of a series, which is why we chose this one (instead of a later one in the series).

The Spellmans are a San Francisco family of private investigators that spends their days spying on people and on one another. Dad is a retired police officer, and Mom is his partner. From the earliest days, the children - overachieving David, precocious Rae, and tough-girl Isabel/Izzy (who's also the narrator) - learn how to "surveill" people. As the book opens, Izzy is telling her family story to the detective who's investigating the disappearance of her baby sister.

It's a little difficult to describe the book in more detail than this. It is essentially a series of anecdotes about Izzy's boyfriends (currents and exes), life in the Spellman house, and the extent to which the Spellmans go in order to spy on one another. Mom and Dad routinely run background checks on Izzy's boyfriends, and all the Spellmans have a penchant for breaking the headlights and taillights of cars, even when they belong to family members, because doing so makes a car easier to tail at night.

The Spellmans are functional-but-dysfunctional in the prototypically American way, and they're all drawn with broad strokes.
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