Lisa Lutz. The Spellman Files (2007) 358 pp.
Introducing Isabel “Izzy” Spellman: She is twenty-eight years old, with a long list of vices (past and present) and ex-boyfriends, and works as a private eye in the family business, Spellman Investigations, with her father Albert, mother Olivia, fourteen-year old sister Rae, and (occasionally, when he is not off on a “lost weekend”) her Uncle Ray; older brother David—a lawyer—is one of the firm’s chief clients. Working out of the family home in San Francisco (“ at 1799 Clay Street on the outskirts of the Nob Hill district. If you walk half a mile to the south, you’ll reach the Tenderloin—San Francisco’s heterosexual red-light district. If you head too far north, you’ll land in some variety of tourist trap, whether it’s Lombard Street or Fisherman’s Wharf or, if you’re really unfortunate, the Marina.”) the Spellmans specialize in surveillance and background checks, skills they frequently also put to use on each other and their friends, associates, lovers, potential lovers, etc. This results in complicated family relationships, with love and hate (at times) nearly indistinguishable. When her parents finally—in her opinion—cross the line by interfering in her relationship with a dentist, Izzy decides to quit the family business. But, it’s not as simple as that. Still under contract, Izzy is assigned one final job, an ice-cold missing-persons case about a Marin County teenager who disappeared during a camping trip twelve years ago. Then, as she is closing in on the solution, Rae disappears herself and Izzy quickly learns that if your family is in danger it is no laughing matter. Nominated for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Barry Award for Best First Novel, and the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery.
Setting: San Francisco
MRJ 2008