The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

This. This one I read till two-thirty in the morning. This one I read (and finished) even as I was unwell. I had seen some nice reviews and thought it would be a good idea to order it. I don’t normally do that. Normally, I just walk into a bookstore and pick books up on a whim. I’ve found great books that way. But this one. I just felt I wanted to get it. And it was fun. I guess…

Izzy Spellman is 28, single, and works for Spellman Investigations, a family-run private detective agency. She

Cover of "The Spellman Files"

might have a chequered past littered with romantic mistakes-but at least she is good at her job. Invading people’s privacy comes naturally. To the whole family. To be a Spellman is to snoop on a Spellman; sabotage a Spellman; dig up dirt on, blackmail and wiretap a Spellman.

But when Izzy’s parents hire her 14 -year-old sister to discover the identity of her new boyfriend, Izzy snaps. She wants out. Her parents make her a deal: solve one last case and her employment contract with Spellman Inc. Will be terminated. Trouble is, the Snow case is decades old, ice-cold, and more twisted than a pretzel…

The reason for the “I guess” is this; I wasn’t really sure I liked Izzy. Ok, she is hilarious in her straight faced humour. She has her good moments of being the Big Sister. She is a good private investigator; passionate about her job even if she has no choice of having any other career. And she is realistic about her expectations of having a “normal” life, if a bit cynical about them. But she herself is a pretty big part of the “Dysfunctional” in her family. Rae merely follows her footsteps. I think a lot could have been avoided if Izzy hadn’t been a rebel in the first place. Having said that, this book really isn’t about full-dimensional characters or realistic situations or relatable relationships. It’s not literature. This book is about having a good time with it. And so I did.

The story is spunky, the characters are funny, the dialogue is sharp. Of all the characters, I liked Rae the most. In fact, I’ll go ahead and say that even though Izzy is the narrator, the story revolves around Rae for the most part. Completing her first surveillance job at the age of six, Rae is good at what she does, even if she is addicted to it. Rae and Uncle Ray’s battle is one of the best parts of the story. I immensely enjoyed her discourses in front of Milo the barman (Rae is fourteen). And behind all her cold-blooded negotiating and rule-breaking, sugar addiction and “recreational surveillance”(following complete strangers), blackmailing and grudge-holding, (I know the list of shortcomings may already be too long for any redemption) she is essentially a good person. In her own way, of course.

The other characters in the story are amusing as well. Mr. And Mrs. Spellman are controlling to the core; we’re talking forced dates with lawyers and interrogation dinners with boyfriends. They bug Izzy no end. Yep, the pun is totally intended. David Spellman, her brother, PI since the age of fourteen but out of the family business now, is a ruthless lawyer, negotiating money with his youngest sister. Uncle Ray, health-food addict turned alcoholic gambler, who claims that healthy living gave him cancer(!), has his own issues and runs away frequently on what the family calls “Lost Weekends”. All of them fight for personal privacy. None of them is able to give privacy to other family members.

Enter Daniel Castillo. Handsome dentist and tennis player. Belonging to a family of private investigators isn’t what Izzy calls normal, and it’s easier to tell Daniel that she is, in fact, a teacher. Laughs are assured, as Izzy first tries to hide him from her family, and then hide her family from him.

The Snow case isn’t your typical heart-accelerating mystery, but it’s not predictable either. Mystery lovers may not enjoy it as much. I did have some thrills at a few points, but that may be because of reading it in the middle of the night. Another mystery is disappearance of Rae, which is where the story starts.

I liked the way this book is written. The chapters are mini-stories in themselves and the story moves backwards and forward. And yet, everything is catalogued; Izzy’s Ex-Boyfriends, her redemption, the Lost Weekends, the “unpunished crimes”, the Spellman Wars. More than anything, I loved the witty dialogues and the fast-pace of the story.

Did I like the book? Yes. Will I read more books in the Spellman series? Probably. Looking forward to it.

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Girl who saw the rain for the first time

I mentioned last time that “I’m strictly a prose person”. Well, I’ve attempted a bit of poetry. It’s in free-form, or as I like to call it, prose form. It’s one of the very few poems that I’ve written in my life.

A commuter takes a local home, a day after the...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

 

I saw her on the train,

Sitting two seats away from me.

She was seeing the rain for the first time.

I know it, for her eyes were huge as she looked out of the window.

 

Having no one to make conversation with,

I moved over to her side and smiled.

I was her first friend on earth.

I know it, because she blazed with warmth as she returned the smile.

 

“What a trouble! Rains will create traffic as usual!”

I wanted to say this; a conventional conversation-starter in Mumbai.

But I refrained, sensing that the convention would be lost on her.

She won’t understand.

 

“Beautiful rains!” I said instead, resorting to convention for the “artistic” types.

And she nodded excitedly, and added, “Best time to stop at the bakery.”

She had clearly never tasted cake before

And was waiting for an occasion as special as rains.

 

She soaked in the wet-mud smell,

Looked at me, and asked, “So…What do you do?”

Perhaps she sensed my need for convention.

I launched into a description of what I did.

 

She couldn’t have ever met an engineer,

For she listened with rapt attention,

Nodding and asking questions at right places

And I had no choice, but to believe that she hadn’t tuned me out.

 

“I am an engineer too!” the exclamation caught me by surprise,

More so, because it was an “exclamation!”, than the meaning.

I wondered whether I had ever been as thrilled about my job.

I had a vague vision of myself freshly out of college.

 

We were near my destination now,

And I got up to brave the sea of people lining to get to the door.

She got up with me and smiled

And swam across that sea gracefully.

 

“It was nice meeting you!” she said on the platform.

She waved, turned and left, probably for the said bakery.

I turned too, making my way out of the station

Thinking subconsciously about muffins and coffee.

 

Then suddenly I stopped and wondered

Why I was feeling confused, wondered what made her different from me.

A few moments, and then I exhaled; of course she was different.

I know it, for she was alive… And I was merely breathing.