Friday, March 5, 2010

Book Review - Lisa Lutz's The Curse of the Spellmans

The Curse of the Spellmans (The Spellmans Book 2) by Lisa Lutz
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 11th, 2008
Format: Paperback, 409 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
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Isabel is firmly back at Spellman Investigations, the lure of the PI life being too much for her. But she has removed herself from the attic and is subletting a rent controlled apartment from her Uncle Ray's friend Bernie. Some time has passed since Rae's disappearance. But the aftereffects are still felt, the fallout being manifold. Besides having to rewrite Webster's definition of "vacation" and "disappearance" in an effort to disabuse Rae of referring to her self kidnapping as her vacation, she has also gotten a new best friend. Henry Stone, the detective who investigated her disappearance (used in the original sense of the word), has become Rae's new bff, that is until she accidentally runs him over while he's teaching her how to drive. The incident with the car begins a downward spiral that will result in several arrests for Isabel and the possibility of loosing her PI license if her octogenarian lawyer, Morty, can't save her from jail time. The fateful day of the accident is the day she meets the Spellman's new neighbor, John Brown. Attractive in a Joseph Cottony way, but there's something off about a man who gardens and has such an untraceable name. The inkling that something's not right is present before Isabel finds out he has a locked room in his apartment, which sends her a clear message, she must find out what's in that room. He has also been linked to the disappearances of at least two women, as far as Izzy can tell.

But it's not just John Brown who's behaving mysteriously. Her mother is trashing someone's motorbike in the middle of the night, her father appears to be going to the gym, Milo her bartender is off, Petra her best friend and David's wife is MIA, David is depressed and acting guilty, and Rae is annoying everyone because Henry wants some alone time and she can't figure out why her teacher is hoarding his own snot. And to top it all off, Izzy becomes homeless when Bernie shows back up on the scene. What follows is only something that could happen to Izzy, who has an obsessive need to find out the truth before taking her own safety, future or sanity into account. After an ill attempt at dating John Brown, he becomes her subject, the one thing that keeps her going. The one thing that lands her in hot water and results in broken ribs, two b&e charges as well as a restraining order and grand theft auto charge. And can she solve the one case her parents have given her? A person or persons repeating her crimes to a neighbors holiday themed yard displays from her delinquent youth? But despite it all Isabel is growing closer to Henry Stone and he even takes her in when she has nowhere else to go. Will Izzy be able to save herself and her PI license, because if any of the charges stick she can kiss her license goodbye... or does that even matter anymore if she can't find out what everyone is hiding?

A little more disjointed than the first, but just as enjoyable. The framing of the story within the Morty/Isabel pre-arraignment consultation in his garage is less successful then the Stone interviews of the first book. Plus I feel that once we have the portent of doom with Isabel being arrested for the 2nd(4th) time, that cutting back to Morty just saying, get on with it, is unnecessary. But the mystery is far more Hitchcockian, with all the overtones of Rear Window, even if John Brown looks more like Charlie Oakley in Shadow of a Doubt and not so much Raymond Burr. Also the introduction of Henry as basically another member of the family is too perfect (plus The Stone and Spellman Show... priceless!). He is Isabel's match in so many ways. Sure they have great dichotomies of neat versus slob... but they say opposites attract. Plus he's able to take on her family, stand Rae, and help out, even if it is to provide Rae and Isabel with a Doctor Who outlet. By far, the best is Isabel's discovery of the new Doctor Who! For someone who is a Get Smart addict I thought that Doctor Who is a fitting natural progression. It's just like watching an old tv show from the 60s, but updated with all the technology of the present. Too too perfect, and also reflects how I am with my tv viewing. This book, like the last, is composed of loosely stringed vignettes of the Spellman's lives that result in a full story, like the following of clues from point a to point b through a wacky and humorous circuitous route full of wit. But there is also an undercurrent of true emotion and connection. The scene where Olivia realizes that for once, Isabel is number one in her heart, is just touching beyond anything. Really, I can't wait for the next installment and then the next, but most of all I can't wait for Isabel to finally give the cop her number.

Make sure to enter my Surfeit of Spying Spellmans Giveaway to win this, or any of the other Spellman books. All signed 1st editions!


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