I regularly find myself tooting the horn of a “children’s” author, trying to convince anyone who’ll listen that x author’s latest book is every bit as good as the finest grown up fiction out there. But then sometimes a teenager wanders into the bookstore and has read anything and everything YA-like with a little Goose Girl and Catcher in the Rye and Kite Runner mixed in, and it is at that moment that I am grateful for our table of miraculous “Crossover books” (Crossover books are titles which work equally well for the late teen and adult crowds, although they may not be marketed to both groups). The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz has not yet found its true place in the crossover collection, but it is only a matter of time. This book is a hoot. A wacko family, a breezy mystery, an all-about-the-characters romp.
Think thoroughly modern girl-gumshoe – a little Bridgit Jones, a little Nancy Drew. Izzy Spellman, P.I., comes from a family of P.Is. In fact, she works for the family firm, Spellman Investigations. Nobody invades privacy like the Spellmans. Izzy is good at what she does. She cracks cases. She’s tough. She never gives up. She wants a date. She wants her parents to stop tailing her wherever she goes. Rae, Izzy’s little sister, is like Harriet the Spy, the extreme version. She is a “recreational surveillance” addict who keeps turning up at the local bar for Ginger Ales while she’s on the job. Add Izzy’s nutty parents, her hard-living uncle, perfect-lawyer brother, and an ever-growing list of ex-boyfriends and hilarity ensues.
Yes… this book is not so strong on plot. There’s enough here to hold it together, but come on, that’s not why we’re reading it. We’re reading it because when Izzy’s new boyfriend asks what she does for a living, she pretends she’s a teacher since it’s a whole lot safer than revealing the true weirdness of her family life. Then she decides she needs to “dress like a teacher” in order to keep her cover. Her new attire (mostly tweed) catches her family’s interest and so she must fly low on the radar:
“Defenestration became my coming-and-going method of choice, but it’s hard to say what is more suspicious: a sudden, drastic change in wardrobe or not using doors.”
Funny. Lutz’s book is full of great one-liners. It’s clever and at times, hilarious. The voice and the strange happenings remind me of David Sedaris’s stuff. I could imagine him writing this if he had grown up in a family of private investigators (a scary thought). The Spellman Files is the first in what will be a series, and there are whisperings of a film. Good news for all from 15-99!