Written for the KAZI Book Review (http://kazibookreview.wordpress.com/):
Anyone with a taste for fast-paced, funny fiction with an authentic feel will enjoy Lisa Lutz’s latest novel, The Spellmans Strike Back.
For anyone not acquainted with the Spellmans, they are a dysfunctional family of San Francisco PIs that are as likely to be spying on each other as they are to be on a paying job. The novel is set up as a “document” written by Isabel Spellman, the thirty-something middle child of the Spellman clan, chronicling her misadventures with her twisted family business. Isabel is a wonderfully flawed heroine that feels very genuine, as if she were your funniest friend giving you the highlights of her recent past. The novel centers around her personal and professional life (both fairly active, often intertwined) and the motley cast of family, friends and enemies surrounding her.
Lutz’s writing moves the various storylines along at a brisk pace without sacrificing wit or character development. By keeping the chapters brief, Lutz allows the reader to keep pace with a half dozen or so story threads and still get to know Isabel and company. She proves herself to be adept at creating realistic situations that are still very amusing. Even while laughing with and at Isabel, you will likely find yourself identifying with several of the characters.
Another testament to Lutz’s skill is that she manages to incorporate some emotion into a very humorous book. She doesn’t take the easy way out by tying up all loose ends or giving every storyline a happy ending, making this an entertainingly funny story that is also oddly touching at points.
The fourth book in the series, The Spellmans Strike Back remains very accessible without having read the previous books--though Lutz heartily encourages reading the previous “documents” in her many, funny footnoted asides. Though the book clocks in at just under 400 pages, it makes for a very fast, entertaining read that will likely leave the reader wanting to know more about the Spellmans and their universe.