Revenge of the Spellmans



Private investigator Isabel Spellman is back on the case and back on the couch—in courtordered therapy after getting a little too close to her previous subject. As the book opens, Izzy is on hiatus from Spellman Inc. But when her boss, Milo, simultaneously cuts her bartending hours and introduces her to a “friend” looking for a private eye, Izzy reluctantly finds herself with a new client. She assures herself that the case—a suspicious ...

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Private investigator Isabel Spellman is back on the case and back on the couch—in courtordered therapy after getting a little too close to her previous subject. As the book opens, Izzy is on hiatus from Spellman Inc. But when her boss, Milo, simultaneously cuts her bartending hours and introduces her to a “friend” looking for a private eye, Izzy reluctantly finds herself with a new client. She assures herself that the case—a suspicious husband who wants his wife tailed—will be short and sweet, and will involve nothing more than the most boring of PI rituals: surveillance. But with each passing hour, Izzy finds herself with more questions than hard evidence.

Meanwhile, Spellmania continues. Izzy’s brother, David, the family’s most upright member, has adopted an uncharacteristically unkempt appearance and attitude toward work, life, and Izzy. And their wayward youngest sister, Rae, a historic academic underachiever, aces the PSATs and subsequently offends her study partner and object of obsession, Detective Henry Stone, to the point of excommunication. The only unsurprising behavior comes from her parents, whose visits to Milo’s bar amount to thinly veiled surveillance and artful attempts (read: blackmail) at getting Izzy to return to the Spellman Inc. fold.

As the case of the wayward wife continues to vex her, Izzy’s personal life—and mental health— seem to be disintegrating. Facing a housing crisis, she can’t sleep, she can’t remember where she parked her car, and, despite her shrinks’* persistence, she can’t seem to break through in her appointments. She certainly can’t explain whyshe forgets dates with her lawyer’s grandson, orfails to interpret the come-ons issued in an Irishbrogue by Milo’s new bartender. Nor can sheexplain exactly how she feels about DetectiveHenry Stone and his plans to move in with hisnew Assistant DA girlfriend . . .

Filled with the signature side-splitting Spellmanantics, Revenge of the Spellmans is aningenious, hilarious, and disarmingly tender installment in the Spellman series.__________________________________________________

* Yes, plural

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

San Francisco PI Isabel "Izzy" Spellman endures court-ordered therapy sessions as well as blackmail in Lutz's wacky crime novel, the third entry (after Curse of the Spellmans) in a series that keeps getting better and better. Albert and Olivia Spellman, Izzy's parents, want her to return to work for the family PI firm; otherwise, they may have to sell it. While Izzy contemplates their offer, she secretly moves into her brother's guest apartment; helps her elderly lawyer friend, Mort Schilling, accept his upcoming move to Florida; and mourns the loss of her bartending job. Will she rediscover her yen for snooping when she takes on "the Case of Ernie Black's Not Terribly Suspicious Wife Who Probably Wasn't Cheating on Him"? Or say sayonara to snooping? Hyper spy girl Rae, Izzy's teenage sister (who may have cheated on her PSAT), provides dizzy distractions. Punctuating the rapid-fire plot are amusing therapy session transcripts and footnotes. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440716287
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 6/5/2009
  • Series: The Izzy Spellman Series
  • Format: CD

Meet the Author

Lisa Lutz is the author of The New York Times bestselling, Edgar- and Macavity-nominated, and Alice Award-winning Spellman Series. She is most recently the author of Heads You Lose, written with David Hayward, and lives and works in California.

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Read an Excerpt

Family Camping Trip #2

Why???? we all asked when my father broke the news. A family disappearance/corporate retreat/camping trip all rolled up into one. Surely it was a bad idea, I suggested. The sentiment was reaffirmed by Rae with her constant references to the Donner Party and repeated inquiries as to which one of the Spellmans plus guest would most likely be consumed first (should it come to that). The third time this particular line of inquiry rolled around, my mother sent Rae to her room.

If all of this is confusing you, perhaps I should give you a quick refresher course on the Spellmans. Although I highly recommend reading the first three documents[1] if you want a true understanding of what is really going on here.

My father is Albert Spellman, a onetime cop turned private investigator who really likes lunch. He is happily married to Olivia Spellman, my mother and co-owner of Spellman Investigations. Mom is an extremely attractive woman—although lately people have been adding the disclaimer “for her age,” which has started to get under her skin. Other than my mom’s mild vanity, her most obscene characteristic is that she seems to think meddling in her children’s lives is an Olympic event. Her training regimen is positively brutal.

Albert and Olivia have three children. The oldest, my brother David, 34: Formerly a poster-boy for the all-American corporate male, currently an out-of-work human being. I’m the middle child. Isabel, 32, if you didn’t catch it already. My M.O. from fifth grade until my mid-twenties was that of the problem child. The “student” who the principal knew by name, the neighbors feared and the pot dealers counted on to stay afloat. Also, in the interest of honesty, there were a few arrests thrown into the mix—two (or four depending on how you’re counting) as recently as two years ago, which I guess means that I can’t argue that my problem years were confined to my youth or even my twenties. But it’s important to note that I’ve come a long way. Therapy helped, and I’m big enough to admit it was court-ordered.

About six months ago, after years of doubt about my future with Spellman Investigations, I committed to the job completely and agreed to slowly begin taking over the business from my parents so they can retire and learn to macramé[2] or something. My father likes to say the seeds of adulthood have been planted. He’s just waiting for them to take.

There’s only one other Spellman to speak of—Rae—and I’ll mostly let her speak for herself because you might not believe me otherwise.

I suppose the most defining characteristic of my family is that we take our work home with us. If your job is investigating other people, you inevitably investigate each other. This single trait has been our primary point of conflict for most of my life.

Finally, to round out the players on this unfortunate camping trip, I should mention Maggie. Maggie Mason, girlfriend to brother David. Maggie is a defense attorney who used to date Henry Stone (that’s a whole other story I don’t really want to get into right now, okay?) who happens to be the “best friend”[3] of my now seventeen-year-old sister, the briefly aforementioned Rae. Henry is a forty-five-year-old police inspector and Rae is a senior in high school. They’re an unlikely duo. Rae met Henry when she was fourteen and I guess she decided that they were kindred spirits. However, on the surface (and beneath the surface) they have nothing in common. At the start, Henry endured Rae. Then he got used to her. Then, when Henry was dating Maggie and Rae went to supernatural lengths to sabotage their relationship, Henry cut Rae off completely. Now they have found peace. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I don’t get involved anymore.

After Maggie and Henry broke up, over half of the Spellman clan vetted Maggie and determined that she was a quality human, the kind of person that the Spellman circle sorely needed. After an appropriate amount of time passed, the matchmaking plans for Maggie and David were successfully enacted. The couple had only been together about two months at the point of this camping trip, but since Maggie is the only person we know who can make fire from a flint, pitch a tent, use a compass and actually owns bear spray, we thought it wise for our own personal safety to bring her along. That and David refused to come unless she accompanied him.

Now picture me in the pre-dawn hours, in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the Russian River, in the middle of nowhere, sharing a tent with my much younger sister, Rae, who had spent the past two days either trying to get cell phone reception, complaining about the mosquitoes, or “sleeping”, during which time she carried on lengthy conversations about. . . well, honestly I couldn’t tell you. I caught phrases like: “I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” “Not in this lifetime,” and “you’ll find the treasure at the bottom of the gorge.” I might have been able to sleep through her babbling if she weren’t a nighttime thrasher and kicker. And so, once again, there I was, sleep-deprived, trapped with family, waiting for the nightmare to come to an end. My life in a nutshell.

I gave up on sleep, knowing that this was my last full day in the wild. When I exited my tent, my father was trying to make coffee and failing miserably. He appeared glad for company since my mother was still slumbering in their tent.

“What am I doing wrong?” he asked.

“Strong-arming your family into a cruel and unnecessary nature excursion,” I suggested.

No,” Dad replied. “What am I doing wrong with the coffee?”

“You don’t stick the coffee in the pot and boil it with the water, Dad. Are you brain-dead? You just boil the water first and use the French press Maggie brought. Weren’t you watching her yesterday?” I replied with too much hostility.

My father tried to lighten the mood with the only joke he had in his arsenal this weekend.

“Why don’t you take a hike?” he said for about the thirtieth time.

“I’m going to dig a grave for that line and you’re going to bury it, Dad. I swear to you if you say it one more time—“

“Maggie!” Dad shouted, with way too much enthusiasm for waking hours. “Thank God you’re awake.”

Maggie smiled, approached the campfire, and took over the coffee-making. Already the morning had improved. But the purpose of the trip had not yet been realized and, eventually, we had to accept that this wasn’t simply a bonding experience for the Spellmans and friend, but something even more bizarre.

I should mention that no Spellman child had gone AWOL (or refused to participate in the excursion since “business” was not to take place until the final day and, frankly, we all wanted our voice to be heard, even if it was heard above the buzz of mosquitoes. Also, I should mention that my parents refused to give raises to anyone who didn’t participate in this bonding exercise. As for David, he was only there because he thought Maggie needed more quality time with the family, as a kind of cautionary lesson.

I suppose it’s time we get to business.

[1] The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans – all available in paperback!

[2] The parental unit claims to have plans for their retirement, but so far none sound even remotely plausible.

[3] Her words; not his.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Lisa Lutz. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Lisa Lutz is back with the third installment in her sleuth series, Revenge of the Spellmans. Still reeling from the confinement of a restraining order and court-ordered therapy (See previous document, Curse of the Spellmans), Isabel Spellman finds herself removed from her investigative life, serving drinks in a Bay Area dive bar.

But when her boss, Milo, insists that she do some detective work for one of his friends, Izzy is thrown back into the business, as one curiosity leads to countless more. What ensues is a hilarious and mysterious case of mistaken identities, dysfunctional relationships, and much-needed family therapy.

Isabel — under the pressure of inheriting the family business, taming her manipulative sister, uncovering her brother's strange actions, and getting to the bottom of her one and only commissioned case — finds herself broke, living secretly in someone else's apartment, and being blackmailed by an unknown assailant.

As new and old romances surface, friends leave, and jobs disappear (well, she was fired), everything in Izzy's world is about to change, and she is left with a choice: grow up or get left behind.

Questions for Discussion

1. The story begins and ends with a therapy session. Do you think Isabel has madeany personal progress through the narrative? Has she simply resurrected an inclination to investigate and tail everyone she meets? What do you make of the different approaches of her two therapists? Is Dr. Rush going to tame the Spellmans?

2. How do you view morality throughout the novel? Discuss, in particular, Olivia's doctoring of Rae's grades, the various forms of blackmail by assorted parties, Henry and Isabel's revenge, and Morty's exaggerated illness.

3. In the same respect, how do you feel about the seemingly endless violations of trust and privacy that Rae practices?

4. Many romantic relationships appear throughout the narrative. Do Connor and Isabel stand a chance? What about the underlying tension between Henry and Isabel? The blossoming romance between Gabe and Petra? David and Maggie? Ernie and Sharon/Linda?

5. Continuing in the spirit of prior Spellman Files, footnotes play an important part in the reading experience of the novel. How did they affect the flow of the narrative? Were the helpful? Distracting? Purely comical? Informative?

6. Isabel describes Connor as "one of those people," (p. 161), referring to his ability to express his emotions without embarrassment or reservation. Is Izzy truly irked by this, or does she envy Connor's unflinching candor? Look at some of the conversations and transcripts between Izzy and her various counterparts, and discuss the instances of both guardedness and full disclosure. Consider her therapists, lunches with her father, Henry, David, Morty, and Milo.

7. How do you envision Rae's future? Is she the craftiest Spellman yet? Why can't she seem to be kept under control?

8. Who do you think is the sanest Spellman? Or is that an oxymoron?

9. By the story's end, the mystery has full unraveled, and all blackmailers, tailers, private investigators, and artificers are revealed. Was there a moment in the text before the end that you uncovered the mystery? Who was your first guess for Isabel's blackmailer? What did you make of the political consultant?

10. Discuss Isabel's clandestine inhabitance of David's basement apartment. Was she crazy to think that she wouldn't be caught? Should David have been angrier? Though we find out that David is simply having a form of MILFO, what were your hunches as to his sudden weight loss and truancy?

Enhancing Your Book Club

1. Read descriptions and reviews of Lutz's previous two documents at (If you haven't heard, The Spellman Files and Curse of the Spellmans are available in paperback). Use these two preceding tales as a companion piece for Revenge.

2. Perform a mock stake-out (within the limits of the law, please) of a local eatery or luncheonette. Use your novice detective skills to make Spellman-like observations about some of the passersby. What can you discern about people through focused observation?

3. Go to and read/watch the various interviews and Q&A's on the right side of the page. Hear Lutz's insight into her fictional world and discuss how this racks up against your interpretations as a reader. Or, just enjoy a funny and smart author!

4. Possibly the most venerated of detectives/PI's is Sherlock Holmes, the masterful discerner created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read any one of his capers (collected in a number of anthologies) and compare the intrigue that develops with the more airy, light-hearted mystery of the Spellmans.

5. Use old magazines to cut and paste together your own ransom note. If you feel so inclined, make it an invitation to a friend for a trip to some cultural destination (a zoo, museum, or play). For those with children, see if you can compose a request for a car wash. (And fess up quickly before your loved ones think they're REALLY being blackmailed!)

A Conversation with Lisa Lutz

1. How do you decide where you are going to insert footnotes, use the appendix, or include explanation within the body text? Is it an arbitrary process, or do you have a certain type of idea/factoid that you like to use for each part of the book?

It's a pretty organic process. Sometimes it's just a detail that doesn't fit in the main text that still seems necessary. An investigator, I would imagine, would always be obsessed with the minutiae.

2. Are we to trust Isabel? With her proclivity for paranoia and her lack of sleep, she can come off as a relatively unstable character. Do you intend for the reader to question her perspective?

I don't trust Isabel, so I don't see any reason why you should. She's a human being with her share of flaws — paranoia being one of them. And sleep deprivation can do funny things to a person.

3. Have you ever done detective work of your own? Do you think it's immoral to snoop on someone?

I worked for a private investigative agency briefly. I rarely had the opportunity to snoop. I have certain rules for snooping, under which anything out in the open is fair game. But I also think, in light of some current trends in our culture, that privacy should be respected. I investigate more directly. I tend to ask a lot of questions and don't feel satisfied until I have the answer.

4. Who do you consider to be the most cunning Spellman? By the end of Revenge, one might be led to believe that Rae has the upper hand on the rest of her family. Do you see Rae inheriting the Spellman legacy?

Rae is definitely the most cunning Spellman. However, in a war, Isabel would never let Rae win the final battle. As for who will inherit the Spellman legacy, I'm not sure that has been decided yet.

5. What's your writing process like? How do you map out the various beats and misdirections that make a Spellman novel?

My writing process is chaos. I usually start with an overarching theme. Then I establish several story threads, but I don't outline. I just start writing and keep notes for what may come. It's an organic process that's usually pretty flexible.

6. Are there more documents in the works?

The fourth installment, The Spellmans Strike Again, is currently in the works.

7. Who would win a battle of wits between Sherlock Holmes, Dick Tracy, Inspector Clouseau, Angela Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher, Isabel, and Rae?

Sherlock Holmes would definitely win in a battle of wits. But if he kept company with Isabel and Rae, his drug addiction would eventually bring him to ruin.

8. Is family therapy going to be something that continues with the Spellmans? Is there any hope for some sort of familial evolution? Can they trust each other?

No, the family quits therapy. But I do think they continue to evolve and will eventually build some semblance of trust. You can't be suspicious 24/7. It's too exhausting.

9. Is Isabel capable of maintaining a romantic relationship? Is Connor destined to be ex-boyfriend #12?

I think this question will be answered in future books. No need for a spoiler.

10. What advice would you give to someone squatting in an apartment that isn't theirs? Say, for instance, they have a friend who is away on business for an extended period of time, and that said friend has been liberal in the distribution of "emergency keys." Should they tell their friend, or simply wash the sheets and refill all pilfered liquor? Your answer would be much appreciated!

Take pictures before you move in. Try to restore the place to its previous condition based on the photos. But, definitely, wash the sheets, do the dishes, and don't eat all the food and absolutely no pay-per-view.

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