Tag Archives: Lisa Lutz

Trail of the Spellmans another fun read

trail-of-the-spellmansLisa Lutz fans (and they are legion) have probably all beat me to reading the new entry in the Spellman series, Trail of the Spellmans.  And although I am terrifically fond of Isabelle Spellman and the whole Spellman clan (click here for my review of the third “document”), somehow I missed the book’s pub date last year.  Better late than never!

For those who haven’t read the series, here’s the premise:  Protagonist Isabelle Spellman is enmeshed in the family business.  Mom and Dad Spellman (Olivia and Albert) run a PI firm.  Younger sister Rae (smart and smart-alecky) is also on board, but not big brother David.  There’s a host of other characters, including family members, love interests, clients and associates.  They’re easy to keep track of, because the personalities practically spring off the page.

The series is light hearted, the crimes are not heart-breaking, nobody gets murdered, and quirks abound.  The interpersonal relationships take up a lot of psychic energy, but that’s cool – a big part of the charm is figuring out who’s pulling the wool over whose eyes, and why.

So it is situation normal in Trail of the Spellmans.  Client A has hired the firm to trail her rich husband, but seems more interested in making sure that she knows where he is than who he is with and what he’s doing.   Clients B and C have hired the firm to follow their college student daughter.  Quirkily charming obsessive-compulsive client D has hired the firm (specifically, Isabelle) to run over and make sure he hasn’t left the faucet running or the toaster plugged in when he is overcome with faucet-or-toaster related anxiety.   And circling back around, something seems to be sort of wrong with Client A’s husband.

This professional investigation work pales in comparison to the personal investigation work.  Why is Olivia Spellman suddenly taking on hobby after hobby?  What’s up with employee/chef Demetrius (formerly convicted of murder, now exonerated) and his growing friendship with the irascible Grammy Spellman?  Why is brother David on the outs with sister Rae, and does it have anything to do with why toddler Sydney does not seem to understand what the word “banana” means? And what’s up with Isabelle’s relationship with boyfriend Henry?  Is Henry’s mom Gertie really getting it on with bar-owner Bernie?

I’m making this sound more convoluted than it is.  All the plot points get resolved satisfactorily, Izzy has a couple of big life changes but we’re okay with them, and everything works out for the best with the various clients.  Read the book, it’s fun.  When I told my husband I had finished “the latest Spellman,” he asked “Is that the footnote girl?” and reached for the book.

Indeed, Isabelle Spellman is the footnote girl.  Her narrative is peppered with short, hilarious footnotes (not David Foster Wallace footnotes, I promise).   There’s also an appendix.  If you remember the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, when funny stuff happens during the credits and then Ferris comes out and asks you why you’re still here, that’s what Spellman appendices are like.  Highly entertaining.

PS – For those who recall that there was going to be a crime drama based on the Spellmans, no news.  IMDB says it’s still in development.

Footnote Fans, Take Note of Josh Bazell

Footnotes are just one of the things I love about Lisa Lutz‘s Spellman series:  she’s got a fun premise (a family of detectives!), great characters (oh, that little sister!  And the 80-year-old best friend!), and the series is just plain madcap.*  So, of course I was intrigued when my loving husband brought home a book I’d some how overlooked:  Josh Bazell’s 2009 debut thriller, Beat the Reaper.  The protagonist is like Izzy Spellman, only dangerous instead of ditsy.  That’s Pietro “Bearclaw” Brnwa, former teenage mob hitman, now undercover as Dr. Peter Brown, an intern at a Manhattan# hospital.   All is well until a dying mobster shows up at Dr. Brown’s hospital, recognizes him, and suddenly the sharks are circling.  Literally.

Bazell is evidently some kind of madcap creative genius.  He holds a BA in literature from Brown and an MD from Columbia.  And Brnwa is a character you’ll never forget – violent, smart, irreverent, caring, funny.  Did I say violent?  At the end of Beat the Reaper, he’s alive … and it’s time to move on.  I won’t say more except that you will be astounded at what Bazell comes up with for Brnwa.  And you’ll be gobbling up those darn footnotes like they’re M&Ms.

Book #2 – the new one – is Wild Thing.  It’s eleven years later and Brnwa is now a doctor on a cruise ship.  A reclusive billionaire – we know him as Rec Bill through the whole book – hires Dr. Lionel Azimuth to accompany paleontologist Dr. Violet Hurst to a small town in Minnesota.  Rec Bill wants to know if it’s true that there is a monster in the lake.  Upon this simple premise a thriller is built.

It goes without saying that Brnwa will be mightily attracted to Violet, that the plot    is packed with mayhem, hilarity, and wit in about equal parts.  In addition to the footnotes, Bazell has included an appendix and sources.  I promise you, you will read them.

And on page 210, you will gasp aloud at his audacity.

*I know, the photo is not Lisa, it’s Josh Bazell, looking all Clive Owen-y.

#A Manhattan hospital, because Bazell got his MD degree at Columbia University, which is right there, and he lives in Brooklyn.  As I am going to NYC for spring break I will be scanning the streets for him.

Hey, the Spellmans are coming to TV!

I spent almost four hours rewriting the current mystery today… so I feel that it is okay to go online and distract myself by posting this exciting news!

In this world of the truly bizarre, cranky-but-lovable Izzy Spellman* and her whacky family and various love interests are coming to TV.  Yes, the producer of the series House is planning to produce a DRAMA series based on the series penned by Lisa Lutz.  You can read about it in Variety.

In case you are not adequately alerted by my use of capital letters and a bold font, I am dismayed by the focus on drama.  How can this be?  Izzy is hilarious.  Her friends are hilarious.  Her family is hilarious.  And frankly, the mysteries, although mysterious, are never really very… dramatic.

So while I would love to see this work out and be an absolutely fabulous thing, I have my doubts.  Can it be done?  Lisa Lutz is said to be involved as a consultant, although other authors, I have heard say “Take the money and run.”  (I can only think of poor Sara Paretsky and what she must have thought of Kathleen Turner’s turn as the indomitable V.I. Warshawski.)

I am eagerly awaiting news as to who will play Izzy.  She is ditsy enough that Kathleen Heigl will be fighting for the chance to play her, but I envision a smarter actress.  Say, Reese Witherspoon.  Or even Ellen Page, if she could play a little older.

*you remember that Izzy always uses footnotes.  They’re often funny, well worth reading!

Loving Lisa Lutz

No, it’s nothing kinky.  I’m just totally jazzed because I have Lisa Lutz‘s brand new book in the Spellman series, The Spellmans Strike Again, in my hot little hands.  I’m prolonging the anticipation, though, because I’m about to go on vacation and I’m reserving it for the plane trip.

I had a little anxiety about buying the book.  At this stage in life, I’m really very picky about owning books.  I have a small house that’s already filled with books.  And music.  And computers.  And a ridiculously large number of magazines.  So I really don’t want to own more things to put on a shelf.

I pondered the concept of waiting till the library lent the new Spellman book to me.  (No way, gratification delayed is gratification denied!)  How about the Kindle edition?  Not yet available in the Kindle store.  However, you can get it read out loud to you via audible.com for $17.00.  That made it a no-brainer.

One trip to Borders later, I have the book.  The hard part is waiting till Sunday.  It got even harder when Lisa sent me an email about the campaign to Free Schmidt.  Evidently the new book includes a story line about an unjustly jailed innocent man (presumably Schmidt) and is being used to raise awareness of the Innocence Project.  Although I wasn’t clueless – I know that innocent people sit in prison every day, and that the DNA evidence that might exonerate them is never tested – it was mostly because the journalism students at Northwestern University are often in the news for their work, the Medill Innocence Project.  Reading about the work being done across the country is amazing and inspiring. I can’t wait to see how Lisa addresses this serious issue in her funny and fast-paced fiction!

Keep your fingers crossed for me.  When I review the book, I’ll let you know how long my resolve lasted!

Quickie Spellman update

No sooner do I write about the new Izzy Spellman book* than I receive my quarterly Lutzletter, in which author Lisa Lutz vows to publish a new Spellman book every month in 2010.  Of course, this is asterisked with a “not really.”  She also announces her book tour to promote the new book, The Spellmans Strike Again.

Drat and double drat!  Lisa will be here in Chicago on March 23 and 24.  Of course, I won’t be here.   I will be in the Big Apple** with my performance-mad son, dashing madly from one Broadway show to another, while simultaneously ripping up 100 dollar bills.  (I may as well.)

The tour begins March 16 in LA and ends April 15 in New York City.  To see the Lutzletter and check the dates for your city, click here!

*Revenge of the Spellmans

** New York City