Tag Archives: News of the World

{Review} The Spellman Files – Lisa Lutz

You know when you read a (technically) brilliant book that ticks all the boxes but just doesn’t quite have you hooked? That’s basically how I felt about this one.

As the middle child in a family of Private Investigators who live for their work, Isabel Spellman has never had a ‘normal’ life. From the age of twelve, she and her absolutely perfect elder brother, David have been employed by their parents to complete covert assignments. The family’s work ethic is such that they even bring their work home; spying on each other with skill that News of the World would envy.

Isabel thinks nothing of this until her parents send her younger sister, Rae to find out all she can about her new boyfriend, almost destroying the relationship in the process. Furious and heart-broken, Isabel tries to leave the family business but she needs references. Her parents promise her these if she will complete one final assignment: a cold case that is fifteen years old. Little do she and her family know that this case will be the most important they have ever dealt with before.


One of the strongest points in this book was the humour. From the opening scene it hits you when you least expect it and is wonderfully quirky. Lutz’s characters are equally eccentric and sometimes interesting, especially Uncle Ray, the ex-business partner of Mr. Spellman who was shocked out of his healthy lifestyle by cancer and now vanishes on ‘Lost Weekends’ with a credit card and a bottle of bourbon.

On the downside, several of these characters felt two-dimensional, especially Rae who is supposed to be the person who holds the family together. As this undermined one of the main plot-lines, it was rather disappointing. Although that being said, had Rae been more ‘normal’, several rather entertaining parts of the novel would never have happened.

For the last six percent of the book, I was engrossed in the (final) story(-line) that was introduced and it was worth the ride. I just wish it had followed a more linear format to get there.

A fast-paced and sometimes entertaining tale of a family of PIs. Sadly the characters sometimes felt over-blown and cartoonish and the story leapt from one point to the other a little too tangentially for me to settle into it.

WNI’s verdict? Wavering…

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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Support your Library


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