Given the title* of the latest Spellman novel by Lisa Lutz (I blogged about the others here), I opened it with some trepidation: Would this be the last book in this marvelous series?
I can’t promise anything, but one sentence in the Appendix gave me hope: a line from the author about one character’s age: “Don’t worry, I expect her to age from now on in real time.”
A great novel needs sympathetic characters, a compelling plot, and engaging dialogue (and I can hear some writer friends chiming in, “And sentences! Great sentences!”), but a great series also needs characters who constantly grow and evolve. The Spellman family, as portrayed through six novels now, continues to age and change in fascinating ways. Featuring a family of private investigators, lawyers, and now a “Conflict Resolution Specialist” (22-year-old Rae’s euphemism for her new role as a vigilante/negotiator: she has outgrown the boredom of sitting in cars, conducting surveillance; she now wants to be more proactive), this book is as much a domestic comedy as it is a mystery novel.
To illustrate the crackling dialogue, I opened to a random page and found the scene where 35-year-old Izzy, who lives in her brother David’s basement, gets trapped into babysitting for Sydney, her 3.5-year-old princess-diva niece. To set the context, Izzy has been watching cartoons in David and Maggie’s house one Saturday morning when the doorbell rings and Max, the father of Claire (Sydney’s young friend), returns the girls only to find that David and Maggie aren’t home. At first Izzy refuses to take the children, then on the phone with her brother she negotiates a $150 rent discount and finally holds the door open for the girls….
“You’re David’s sister?” Max said, as if he didn’t believe my brother.
“Yes, I know, the resemblance is uncanny.”
“Do you live here?”
“Not here. Downstairs. But I thought it was safe to be upstairs today. Guess I was wrong.”
“Are you comfortable taking care of children?”
“How often do you watch Sydney?”
“As little as possible. You’ve met Sydney, right?”
For those who might be wondering, yes, this is what Hollywood types would call a “meet-cute.” But given everything else going on Izzy’s life, she doesn’t even notice. And the ending isn’t some simple Hollywood ending. It’s much better: it opens the door to more complicated, hilarious stories about the Spellman family.
At least I hope it does.