I think that nearly everyone thinks their families are weird, quirky or slightly insane. But the Spellmans, a family of private investigators in San Francisco, have to top the list of the most outlandish, most creative, most insane families to grace the written page.
In Lisa Lutz’s latest installment of “The Spellman Files,” “The Spellmans Strike Again,” this wacky family is once again up to their various hijinks that eventually lead them all to cooperate with each other whether they want to or not. Lutz presents several story lines that cross, with humorous narration by Isabel Spellman. You almost need a score card to keep up with all the action.
Among her many ventures and adventures, Isabel takes on a surveillance job for the firm’s oldest (and richest) client, Mr. Winslow, who fears his staff is robbing him blind. She hires her friend Len, an out-of-work actor, to keep watch over things. He’ll do a great job if he can just get over his method-acting ways. Isabel also takes on a new client, Jeremy Pratt, who wants to investigate the garbage of his former writing partner, who he is convinced is stealing his screenplay.
And if work wasn’t enough, Isabel keeps an eye on her big brother, David, who has been spotted seeing a mysterious blond woman behind his girlfriend Maggie’s back; tries to be supportive to her mentor, Morty Schilling, who desperately wants to leave Florida and move back to “San Fran”; and attempts to figure out younger sister Rae’s curious “best friend” relationship with Isabel’s one-time love interest, Henry Stone. All this while continuing her relentless inquiry into her nemesis Rick Harkey’s shady background.
Oh, and her mother is blackmailing her in order to fix her up on a blind date with a lawyer, while Isabel is desperately trying to keep her relationship with future Ex-Boyfriend #12 Connor on the front burner.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (or the Spellman family home), doorknobs and other household fixtures are mysteriously vanishing, Mom and Dad are insisting on having one day a week to themselves, and sister Rae is on a campaign to save a convict named Schmidt when she’s not doing community service for locking Isabel in a closet overnight. No one quite knows if they are coming or going. But as with all big, loving families, the Spellmans manage to juggle all the drama without killing each other and still love one another at the end of the day.
“The Spellmans Strike Again” is the fourth book featuring the off-the-wall Spellmans, and author Lutz once again does a masterful job of keeping the action light and humorous (with dozens of footnotes that explain much of the complex story). Part comedy, part drama, this novel is all clever and very entertaining. Invite the Spellmans into your reading life … you might find they never leave!