Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files is a novel with disordered episodes which combine some genres. It combines literary work with comedy and mystery in a 300-plus-page book. Despite the problems found in the structure of the book, Lutz’s choice of characters, humor and adept narration makes the book an interesting piece. The protagonist, Isabel Spellman is depicted as a surveillance professional, creative vandal and a drug addict who is fond of making romantic mistakes.
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The Spellman family, having a surveillance family firm- Spellman Investigations, is addicted to the invasion of other people’s privacy and surveillance. Isabel (Izzy) is a licensed private investigator working in her family’s firm. She started working in her parents’ firm at the age of twelve years. “You would have been twelve?” (Lutz 93), inspector Henry Stone gets surprised that she started working in her parents’ firm at such a young age. She also closely monitors her uncle, Ray, who usually enjoys “lost weekends” (Lutz 21) – drinking and gambling sprees in the company of loose women. Her fourteen-year-old sister, Rae, is said to enjoy recreation surveillance- spying on people’s private lives for fun. Rae starts working in her parents’ firm at the tender age of eight years. Her father, Albert, and her mother, Olivia, keep Izzy under 24-hour surveillance to monitor her sexual relationships. Being her employers, they also monitor her work closely. It is only her brother, David, who does not have a passion for surveillance. He is said to have “… escaped family business by becoming a lawyer …” (Lutz 17).
Izzy’s character is substantially influenced by her older brother who is depicted as being principled and successful. Izzy knows that she cannot attain the level of her elder brother and thus she decides to be bad. She abuses alcohol and drugs and indulges herself in vandalism. This is among the reasons why her parents’ constant surveillance of her. Izzy portrays unusual behavior in her quest for independence and privacy. For instance, she gets into buildings through windows during her investigations and also while trying to escape he parents’ surveillance (Lutz 33).
Izzy’s hobby is shown to be the evaluation of potential boyfriends and making up reasons for breaking current relationships. She composes the exit profile of a new man even before they get to know each other well. Izzy gives a list of ex-boyfriends and break-up reasons, she meets dentist Daniel Castillo, her “… future ex-boyfriend #9 …” (Lutz 84) while investigating him for gay allegations by his wife. She gets in a relationship with him based on lies and eccentric reasons. With their connection being a mutual interest in a TV series, one cannot help but wonder if a description of Izzy as being loose would be inappropriate. When her sister, Rae, goes missing she gets romantically attracted to the police detective handling the case. All in all, she is shown to be highly unstable and unable to get and maintain a man (Lutz 150-166).
Although this novel has perfectly chosen characters and a good sense of humor, Lutz’s attempt to integrate mystery in it contributes substantially to her failure to structure a good plot for the book. The case of Rae’s disappearance and the decade-old case of a teenager, who went missing, both fizzle out and leave the reader wondering what happened with these cases. However, as stated earlier, her narration is very catchy and full of humorous instances. The book is appropriate for enjoyment reading but not for a reader interested in solid mystery (Lutz 103- 120).
Lutz, Lisa. The Spellman Files. London: Simon & Schuster, 2007. Print.