The book kicks off with a fun concept: the introduction of Isabel Spellman, who has been employed by her parents’ San Francisco private investigation firm, along with her two siblings, since the not-so-tender age of twelve. In the Spellman business (which is based out of their home), picking locks, breaking and entering, wiretapping, and tailing unsuspecting victims are all talents that come as naturally as breathing. Boundaries are nonexistent and privacy is an utterly laughable concept as Izzy’s parents (who are also, unfortunately, her bosses), unapologetically meddlesome younger sister Rae, and wayward Uncle Ray (coiner of the term “lost weekend”) constantly pull out all the snooping, extorting, and blackmailing stops to keep tabs on one another’s activities at all times. Yet none of this ever bothered Izzy before, until she discovers that her perpetually matchmaking mother has hired Rae to discover the identity of Izzy’s new boyfriend. Fed up and suddenly craving normalcy, Izzy wants out of the family business. But before she can collect her last paycheck and move out, there’s a catch: she must close one final file, a fifteen-year-old missing persons case that has long been considered unsolvable. Though technically a “crime” novel, the only real crimes committed throughout are minor vendettas by the family members against one another, and the case takes a backseat to the outrageous antics of the dysfunctional Spellman family. The text and dialogue is light-hearted and witty. This is the first novel in a series by Lisa Lutz and, though it wasn’t deep or thought-provoking by any means, provided a fun escape for a few hours.
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