Book 13: The Spellman Files, Lisa Lutz


I’ve had this book sitting on a shelf waiting to be read for almost literally two years. I just never got around to it until the past couple of weeks. I have to be in the right mood for a book. It has to catch my eye on my shelf at just the right time for me to go “Oh, ok, it’s time to read this.”

The Spellman Files is about a Quirky Family. You know the kind I’m talking about, right? In some ways, they reminded me of the Tenenbaums. It’s that sort of blatant and overly-stressed quirk. (Which isn’t meant to imply that I didn’t enjoy that movie; it’s just that there’s only so quirky someone can be before it’s just ridiculous—and they were all pretty fucking ridiculous.) There’s Isabelle, the narrator of the book. Her parents are private investigators, and she’s worked for them for her whole life. Her younger brother David is perfect, and a lawyer. Her baby sister Rae is named for her uncle Ray who was supposed to die but didn’t. Said Uncle Ray eventually moves in with the family as well. He’s a former super healthy person, is now a drunk and a gambler.

Do you see where this is going? Quirky. With a capital Q at all times.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the book, I just thought that there were some aspects that were a little heavy-handed. Or maybe it was just that I’m overly grateful that, while I’m definitely a weirdo myself, I’m not that kind of quirky. I don’t know. Whatever. They’re Quirky.

The book jumps around a bit, though it maintains a mostly linear narrative. There’s something going on that has Isabelle talking to an investigator in the basement interrogation room of her parents’ house, but that’s really only hinted at until nearly the end of the book. The denoument isn’t really a climax at all, actually. Honestly, I’m not sure I could quite tell you what the plot of this novel even was. Sure, stuff happens, but it was one of those books where nothing really happens for two hundred odd pages except the narrator doing shit and talking about herself and her family and their quirkiness.

OK, I liked it, but it wasn’t great. I didn’t want to throw it across the room, I enjoyed picking it up for a little bit before bed each night. It’s the start of a new series. I’m not rushing out to buy the next one, but I’ll probably read it eventually. (According to Amazon, there are two further entries in this series thus far.)


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