Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review - Lisa Lutz's Trail of the Spellmans

Trail of the Spellmans (The Spellmans Book 5) by Lisa Lutz
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: February 28th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
Challenge: Mystery and Suspense 2011
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
Izzy Spellman's life is for the first time ever on an even keel. She's living with her boyfriend, Henry Stone, and is even drinking buddies with his mother Gertrude. Work is even steady at Spellman Investigations, with the added benefit of having a new co-worker, the wrongfully convicted Demetrius Merryweather whose freedom is down to Izzy and her family. He even is an awesome cook, so there's more reasons to swing by Clay Street than ever before. Yet while Izzy is more normal, her family is behaving stranger than ever. Her mother has every second of every day accounted for with as many "enrichment" classes as she can get... one of them is learning Russian, yet she's not getting any better. David and Rae have started some sort of blood feud and it maybe has to deal with the fact that David's new daughter Sydney hates bananas, yet is always saying that word. Her father is also being belligerent about their caseload dealing with a married couple when it turns out that Izzy was hired by the wife and her father by the husband. They reach an impasse and the fact that her father is withholding evidence that could clear everything up drives Izzy a little crazy. Yet the arrival of Grandma Spellman may just up the crazy to the point of unbearable.

If you haven't noticed by now I'll fill you in on a secret. When naming her books Lisa was looking for a good naming convention and she figured you couldn't go very wrong with going for a tried and true system. Otherwise known as the Pink Panther oeuvre. Therefore I feel safe in the knowledge that we'll get a few more books still, she has more titles to choose from. Also, she was lucky enough to pick a naming convention unlike Charlaine Harris, who is stuck with "dead" or Deanna Raybourn who is stuck with "silent" or some equally ludicrous naming convention like letters of the alphabet or numbers with a qualifier before it. But back to the book. So, Trail of the Spellmans is named after the sixth Pink Panther film, the one notable for the fact that it was a Peter Sellers film made after the star had been dead two years, so was therefore made up of bits and pieces that where cut from the previous films. This lead to a very uneven film.

Taking this analogy to the book, it started out very uneven, you are uncertain if a plot will ever coalesce, with lots of different cases, a daughter being followed, a husband and wife who are trailing each other. All very disparate cases, much like the disparate plot points of  the likewise titled movie. Only Lisa easily succeeded when the movie was unable (ie, their star is dead), in placing the parts into a whole. It's the slow connections, the little cogs all fitting together to form this machine that kept the plot moving more than one specific intrigue.

I was very happy that the mystery part was well thought out and executed because otherwise the book might have let me down. While the Spellmans as a whole are just as kooky as ever, the maturing of Rae and Izzy has led to a hole I feel in me. They have both grown up and in the past it has been their behaviour, or lack of proper behavior I should say, that has driven the plot. Gone are the days where Izzy is sneaky into David's downstairs apartment. Rae is busy with school and actually starting a life independent of her family versus blackmailing them. And Henry and Izzy... well, I won't go there, it's still to raw. This series seems to be in transition. Will it strike out and become more traditional crime solving, or will it adhere to the slightly bizarre and humorous dynamic that drew me to it in the first place? Only the future will tell... but I must pose the question, is growing up sometimes not a good thing?


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