Not quite enchanted

You can't see it here, but the little holes around the eyes are cut outs in the book cover.
You can't see it here, but the little holes around the eyes are cut-outs in the book cover.

By the time I picked up The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz, it had already spawned two sequels, earned the status of “New York Times bestseller”, and received a glowing review from one of my friends. Call me cynical, but I should have known better than to fall into the trap of expecting something transcendent.

Isabel “Izzy” Spellman is the middle daughter to a pair of private-eye parents. Most of the novel is spent detailing the family’s many peculiarities, mainly to do with stalking each other like suspected criminals. Surrounding all this is the mystery of what happened to Izzy’s younger sister, Rae, who has mysteriously disappeared.

Lutz writes in a convoluted style favoured by many recent authors, where straightforward linear narrative is deemed insufficient, and the plot has to be chopped up into little pieces and the order rearranged for maximum dramatic effect. While the story remains coherent, the flow is disturbed and the contrived tension makes for tiring reading, negating all compulsion to discover what happens next. If it’s any indication, I read most of the book over the course of a week and only had about 3-4 pages left to go before I departed for Hong Kong, but decided to leave it (I didn’t want to carry the book around with me for the entire trip for the sake of a few pages).

I guess the humour lies in the farcical nature of the Spellman family and their funny view of the world (where people are simply suspects for investigation), or maybe the neurotic way in which the characters deal with love and relationships. Either way, I didn’t quite fall under the spell of the Spellmans.


  1. as the unnamed friend who enjoyed the book, i have to pipe up in its defence! i found the spellmans really charming and full of character – ditzy and neurotic at times, but compulsively entertaining. perhaps it helped that i hadn’t heard any of the hype and picked it up randomly overseas when i was desperately in need of plane fodder, but i loved it anyway. so raspberries to you ;p

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