Monday, June 25, 2012

The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz: A review

The wacky family of San Francisco private investigators is back in #4 of Lisa Lutz's Spellmans series. Nothing has changed. They are just as quirky and paranoid as ever. They still spend way more time investigating each other than they do working for paying customers. No wonder the business is sinking into the toilet.

Daughter Isabel (Izzy) has finally committed to the family business and will take it over when her parents retire. If there is anything left to take over by then. Pater familias Al has lost a chunk of money in the stock market and there don't seem to be enough paying customers to put the family business back on a firm financial footing. What to do?

Meanwhile, Isabel's romantic relationship with bartender Connor seems to be failing as well and her mother is blackmailing her into dating at least one lawyer or other professional each week because she's convinced that Connor is wrong for her.

Son David seems to be faring better in the romance department. His relationship with lawyer Maggie is stable and progressing and, wonder of wonders, she is approved of by every member of this dysfunctional family.

Even Rae, now almost ready to graduate high school if she can stay of out of jail long enough, has a new boyfriend who seems like a thoroughly normal and nice young man. All the Spellmans want to adopt him.

Izzy continues her relationship with her 85 year-old best friend Morty who now lives in Florida and the other wacky characters that we've come to expect in this series are all here once again.

As for Henry, the San Francisco policeman that Isabel decided she was in love with a couple of books back and then was humiliated when he told her she wasn't grown-up enough for him - well, he's still on the scene, too, and perhaps they are both beginning to accept the inevitability of their relationship.

As for the plot? What plot? It's one long series of disconnected zany events which truly make one wonder how the Spellmans are ever able to make a living as PIs.

Not to be simply a cranky old woman about this, these books are written as humorous mysteries and obviously they are more on the humor side of the equation than the mystery side. The whole series is light and funny and a fast read and this fourth book fits right in with that profile. However, I find myself very annoyed by Ms. Lutz's format for writing these books. Her "notes" and appendices are unnecessary irritations especially for those reading the books on e-readers like the Kindle and I really wish she would just stop it and write a straightforward narrative already. Plus, her constant references to the "previous documents" became redundant and another irritation after about the fifth such instruction to go back and read those previous documents. Each book should stand on its own for those who are starting in the middle of a series. Readers shouldn't be constantly beaten over the head and admonished to go back and read previous books.

On the other hand, maybe I am a cranky old woman.

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