By Lisa Lutz
I am a big fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, after all it isn’t very often one runs across an author that you can honestly say is laugh out loud funny. Lisa Lutz can rightfully take her place next to Ms. Evanovich on that very small list. But what truly sets Lisa Lutz apart from Janet Evanovich is her ability to let characters grow and develop from book to book, where Ms. Evanovich has taken a somewhat safer more lucrative path of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” To put it quite simply, Evanovich’s characters, Stephanie et al, are stuck in a rut, that either Evanovich doesn’t know how, or doesn’t want to get them out of. Lisa Lutz isn’t afraid to take chances with her characters.
“The Spellmans Strike Again” is the fourth in Lutz’ series about a family of private investigators who just can’t help investigating each other. Thankfully just as with Janet Evanovich, each book stands on its own merits. It’s not a prerequisite that you read the previous three volumes before picking up the fourth; though Ms. Lutz does deserve an honorary marketing degree for cleverly referencing the other works in the series with footnotes.
Part of the fun of the Spellman books, is that nothing stays secret for long in this family, and in this book, as in all the others, there is a cat and mouse game of who is keeping a secret from the rest of the family, and who is trying to uncover it; additional mysteries the Spellman’s clients provide are merely a side show, the real show is the Spellman family.
Lutz manages to flawlessly juggle multiple story lines: Isabelle (a.k.a. Izzy) Spellman, the main protagonist of Lutz’ series, is taking over the family business from her parents; she’s been hired to find a rich client’s butler, meanwhile she busies herself by spying on a rival P.I., and trying to unravel the mystery of the Spellman home’s disappearing light bulbs, door knobs and fixtures. In her off time, Izzy is being blackmailed by her mother, and forced to date a series of very eligible, bachelor lawyers, a fact her current boyfriend is not too happy about. Lutz manages to keep all of these balls in the air and just as a juggler catches each ball at the end of his routine, Lutz neatly ties up all of her story lines, one by one, as each is resolved.
ISBN 1416593403, Simon & Schuster, © 2010, Hardcover, 388 pages. $25.00