By Lisa Lutz
Yup! it's the third installment of the Spellman series, the first being The Spellman Files followed by Curse of the Spellmans.
Usually I don’t retain much interest keeping up with an ongoing series, but the Spellman books are a definite exception. As light entertainment, I suspect they are fairly proliferous, as my acquirement of each has been quite effortless. It's the second time in a row where I’ve come upon a hardcover edition at my local thrift shop, mere months after publication. And I wasn’t even looking for it. Eureka!
Lutz has been maintaining a good formula per chuckle-inducing installment. A caper comedy at heart (albeit a somewhat eccentric one), there isn’t much in the way of plot or mystery. There is more of the droll dialogue and deadpan delivery, the inter-familial “investigations” and the misadventures that almost reach the point of absurdity yet remain grounded in reality. The story once again centers around Isabel Spellman, on hiatus as PI, now bartending at her favourite watering hole, The Philosopher’s Club, and enduring her court-ordered therapy sessions (she kinda broke her restraining order in the previous installment).
“You are a licensed private investigator. That is your trade. And yet, for the last five months, all you have done is serve drinks and collect tips. You have refused to work at a job for which you are highly qualified, which used to give you some real purpose in life. I spent seven long, hard years training you at that job, teaching you everything I know while you talked back, nodded off, screwed up, broke equipment, slammed my hand in a car door, lost me clients, cost me a fortune in car insurance.”
Yes, at 31, Isabel Spellman is getting lectured by her dad and she is still having some difficulties growing up. Tired of her seedy apartment in the sketchy Tenderloin, she decides to move into her brother’s basement apartment in tony Russian Hill… without his knowledge. Ever since then, for some reason, Isabel has been suffering from insomnia and forgetting where she parks her car. As Isabel tries to get her life together, she reluctantly takes on a case for a friend. The case seems ordinary enough at first, but takes on more complexity as she delves into it. Will this case prove to be her saving grace?
The city of San Francsico is also featured prominently as Isabel takes public transportation wherever she goes (it helps her catch some much needed zzz’s). I just wish I’d remembered to seek out the Spellman residence at 1799 Clay St. in the lower Nob Hill district when I was in SF last Christmas holiday (Google tells me this address exists). And I was delighted to discover that the book makes reference to a bar where Olman and I hung out after a day of exploring the Mission District.
This might seem a little too easy, but Bob used to consider the 500 Club his own personal living room. I drove straight to Seventeenth and Guerrero, hunted for parking, and found a space adjacent to Dolores Park. When I arrived, Bob was sitting at the bar. I ordered a beer, waited a beat, and then slipped into my ploy.
“Bob? Is that you?”
Again, I derived mucho pleasure in reading the 3rd Spellman book. The 4th is already due this spring. I'm going to keep my eyes peeled!
(hey and this is my 100th post!)