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97 of 100 people found the following review helpful
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
on March 7, 2007
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
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
on April 24, 2007
"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
on June 8, 2010
Book Club Review
THE SPELLMAN FILES
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. The family dynamics are captured well (for those of us who thought the lengths the Spellmans go to, in order to keep tabs on one another, are insane, we had only to reminisce about our own families to see the truth in the book). The book is a little self-consciously wacky, but for the most part we thought it clever, and it certainly does deliver on its promise of being a light, fun read.

The problem we found is that there really is no STORY until the second half of the book, when Izzy gets pulled into a cold case surrounding a young man with a domineering mother who disappeared years earlier. That mystery is pretty good, but it doesn't take sleuths to get the answers; it's really more Izz making a complete pain of herself until someone decides to tell her what's going on. The frame story of the disappearance of Rae - which is the ostensible reason for Izzy telling her life story - just doesn't work; no investigating police officer wants to hear all about the suspect's ex-boyfriends for hours at a time. So, in this sense, THE SPELLMAN FILES reads more as a sitcom than as a novel, which is just fine if you can have realistic expectations about what the book is and what it isn't.

Of the 11 who attended this meeting, 6 said they'd read more by this author; 5 felt they'd overdosed on the book and didn't want to go back for more. Those who liked it enjoyed the humor and the herky-jerky narrative; those who didn't like were annoyed by the pages without any story and the family dynamics (particularly young Rae, a ten-year-old blackmailer and sugar addict who didn't ring true). At the end of the day, it was certainly a different book; I personally might be willing to try another book in the series to see if the mysteries improve.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2007
I loved this book and cannot wait until more are written. I found myself reading slower and slower towards the end, because I didn't want the fun to end. Lisa Lutz writes in such a natural way that I envisioned myself in every scene. I desperately want to be friends with the main character Isabel. Great read- highly recommend it and waiting with baited breath for the next from Lisa Lutz.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 12, 2007
I loved this book and really don't understand the negative reviews. To me, this family isn't dysfunctional - its very over the top eccentric and maybe a little crazy but underneath it all, the love for the family shines through.

I enjoyed Izzy and her heroic tries to get a life of her own which so far has been pretty difficult since they insist on following her on her dates. Her lists of ex-boyfriends was so funny, I was laughing out loud and now rooting for ex-boyfriend #10.

The family scenes with ex-boyfriend #9 are also laugh out loud funny especially when Rae visits him.

And speaking of Rae - I really enjoyed her. The book wouldn't have been the same without her. She may only be 14 but a very well cheographed character. Her relationships with Izzy and her Uncle Ray added so much to the book and the laugh appeal.

All you have to do is look at the cover of this book and you know you're in for an exceptional read. Just don't take it too seriously. It's a fun book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2013
For the life of me I can't understand the favorable reviews for this book. All of the characters are unlikable and irritating. I kept reading until I finished, thinking it would get better. I'm usually pretty easy to please with light reading. My standards aren't that high! I couldn't find any redeemable qualities in any of the characters. I don't usually feel strongly enough to write a review but I just had to vent about this book. Sorry!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2007
If you love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, or if you adored Harriet the Spy when you were a kid, then you MUST read this book! The plot is not ridiculously predictible, and the characters are lovable (despite their personal quirks and flaws.) This is a quick read that's laugh-out-loud funny.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2013
This was listed as a mystery with humor. But all the Spellman characters are thoroughly dysfunctional and personally nasty. They all engage in violations of others' privacy, physical destruction of others' possessions, and a lot of really objectionable behavior in the name of "love". There is nothing likable or redeemable about any of them.

This book isn't funny; it's sad and depressing.
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