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The Spellman Files (Spellman Files Series #1)
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The Spellman Files (Spellman Files Series #1)

4.1 421
by Lisa Lutz

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The Spellman Files is the first novel in a winning and hilarious mystery series featuring Isabel “Izzy” Spellman (part Nancy Drew, part Dirty Harry) and her highly functioning yet supremely dysfunctional family of private investigators.

Meet Isabel “Izzy” Spellman, private investigator. This twenty-eight-year-old may have a


The Spellman Files is the first novel in a winning and hilarious mystery series featuring Isabel “Izzy” Spellman (part Nancy Drew, part Dirty Harry) and her highly functioning yet supremely dysfunctional family of private investigators.

Meet Isabel “Izzy” Spellman, private investigator. This twenty-eight-year-old may have a checkered past littered with romantic mistakes, excessive drinking, and creative vandalism; she may be addicted to Get Smart reruns and prefer entering homes through windows rather than doors—but the upshot is she’s good at her job as a licensed private investigator with her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Invading people’s privacy comes naturally to Izzy. In fact, it comes naturally to all the Spellmans. If only they could leave their work at the office. To be a Spellman is to snoop on a Spellman; tail a Spellman; dig up dirt on, blackmail, and wiretap a Spellman.

Izzy walks an indistinguishable line between Spellman family member and Spellman employee. Duties include: completing assignments from the bosses, aka Mom and Dad (preferably without scrutiny); appeasing her chronically perfect lawyer brother (often under duress); setting an example for her fourteen-year-old sister, Rae (who’s become addicted to “recreational surveillance”); and tracking down her uncle (who randomly disappears on benders dubbed “Lost Weekends”). But when Izzy’s parents hire Rae to follow her (for the purpose of ascertaining the identity of Izzy’s new boyfriend), Izzy snaps and decides that the only way she will ever be normal is if she gets out of the family business. But there’s a hitch: she must take one last job before they’ll let her go—a fifteen-year-old, ice-cold missing person case. She accepts, only to experience a disappearance far closer to home, which becomes the most important case of her life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fast-paced, irreverent, and very funny, The Spellman Files is like Harriet the Spy for grown-ups."

— Curtis Sittenfeld, author of The Man of My Dreams and Prep

"Hilarious. My enjoyment of The Spellman Files was only slightly undercut by my irritation that I hadn't written it myself. The funniest book I've read in years!"

— Lauren Weisberger, author of The Devil Wears Prada and Everyone Worth Knowing

"The Spellman Files is hilarious, outrageous, and hip. Izzy Spellman, P.I., is a total original, with a voice so fresh and real, you want more, more, more. At long last, we know what Nancy Drew would have been like had she come from a family of lovable crackpots. Lisa Lutz has created a delicious comedy with skill and truth. I loved it."

— Adriana Trigiani, author of Lucia, Lucia and Big Stone Gap

"A spirited, funny debut...a rush of humor and chaos...casual, swift, and hip...A fresh story that works real issues through an offbeat premise."

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Publishers Weekly

Cracking the case can get complicated and outrageously wacky when a family of detectives is involved, but Lutz has a blast doing it in her delicious debut. Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, a San Francisco PI who began working for Spellman Investigations at age 12, could easily pass as Buffy or Veronica Mars's wiser but funnier older sister. Izzy digs TV, too, especially Get Smart(an ex-boyfriend's ownership of the complete bootlegged DVD set is his major selling point). Now 28, Izzy thinks she wants out, but elects to take on a cold case while dealing with 14-year-old sister Rae, a nightmarish Nancy Drew, and parents who have no qualms about bugging their children's bedrooms. At times the dialogue-heavy text reads like a script and the action flags, but these are quibbles. When Rae suddenly disappears, Izzy and her family must learn some serious lessons in order to find her. Can the family that snoops together stay together? Stay tuned as a dynamic new series unfolds. 150,000 first printing. (Mar.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"A spirited, funny debut...a rush of humor and chaos...casual, swift, and hip...A fresh story that works real issues through an offbeat premise."

-- (starred review)

Library Journal

First novelist Lutz introduces a comical mystery series with this book, which features the Spellman family of private eyes. Twenty-eight-year-old Isabel "Izzy" Spellman has a problem with her bosses at Spellman Investigations, namely, her parents. The family business consists of Albert and Olivia, Izzy, and precocious 14-year-old daughter Rae, named after another member of the business, Uncle Ray. Rae's primary job within the firm is keeping track of Izzy for her parents; Izzy had been a problem child, and they fear she may lapse at any moment. The eldest of the Spellman children, David, an attorney, isn't part of the firm but is often called upon to negotiate among family members. The Spellmans spend a lot of time surveilling each other as they all try to find out who is doing what and to, or with, whom. Christina Moore does a good job reading; each character's voice has a unique nuance that makes it easy to follow the person speaking. Recommended for public libraries.
—Deb West

Kirkus Reviews
A spirited, funny debut from screenwriter Lutz that mixes chick-lit, mystery and a dose of TV nostalgia. Isabel Spellman has family issues. Her parents are a mismatched pair of private investigators who routinely run credit and background checks on their older daughter's dates. Her Uncle Ray survived a bout of cancer and now makes up for lost time, drinking, smoking and disappearing for days on end. Her amoral baby sister, Rae, negotiates everything for cash or candy, and her brother, David, is distressingly perfect. In its own way, this dysfunctional family works, and 28-year-old "Izzy" works with it, literally, as a PI for Spellman Investigations. A formerly wayward teen, known for her own lost weekends, Izzy has found herself in the nuts and bolts of PI work, from surveillance to lock-picking. But once Izzy falls for ultra-normal Daniel (he's a dentist), she begins to question her lifestyle, with its constant undercurrent of deceit and suspicion. Not that it doesn't fit her misfit personality, with its twin preoccupations of drinking and Get Smart re-runs. "I had always loved the job," she realizes in a moment of clarity. "I just hadn't always liked who I became doing it." But her exit strategy is complicated when her parents stick her on a dead-end case that excites her investigator's instincts; her best friend, Petra, starts acting oddly normal (and having tattoos removed); and Rae disappears. Written in a conversational first-person that includes Izzy's "files," such as her list of ex-boyfriends and their exit lines, these various mysteries all come together in a rush of humor and chaos. It's all casual, swift and hip. But an underpinning of reality, the complex emotions of growingup and letting go, shows through occasionally, warming up this hilarious debut. A fresh story that works real issues through an offbeat premise. First printing of 150,000

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Spellman Files Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1 Seventy-two Hours Later

A single lightbulb hangs from the ceiling, its dull glow illuminating the spare decor of this windowless room. I could itemize its contents with my eyes closed: one wooden table, splintered and paint-chipped, surrounded by four rickety chairs; a rotary phone; an old television; and a VCR. I know this room well. Hours of my childhood I lost in here, answering for crimes I probably did commit. But I sit here now answering to a man I have never seen before, for a crime that is still unknown, a crime that I am too afraid to even consider.

Inspector Henry Stone sits across from me. He places a tape recorder in the center of the table and switches it on. I can't get a good read on him: early forties, short-cropped salt-and-pepper hair, crisp white shirt, and a perfectly tasteful tie. He might be handsome, but his cold professionalism feels like a mask. His suit seems too pricey for a civil servant and makes me suspicious. But everyone makes me suspicious.

"Please state your name and address for the record," says the inspector.

"Isabel Spellman. Seventeen ninety-nine Clay Street, San Francisco, California."

"Please state your age and date of birth."

"I'm twenty-eight. Born April 1, 1978."

"Your parents are Albert and Olivia Spellman, is that correct?"


"You have two siblings: David Spellman, thirty, and Rae Spellman, fourteen. Is that correct?"


"Please state your occupation and current employer for the record."

"I am a licensed private investigator with Spellman Investigations, my parents' PI firm."

"When did you first begin working for Spellman Investigations?" Stone asks.

"About sixteen years ago."

Stone consults his notes and looks up at the ceiling, perplexed. "You would have been twelve?"

"That is correct," I respond.

"Ms. Spellman," Stone says, "let's start at the beginning."

I cannot pinpoint the precise moment when it all began, but I can say for sure that the beginning didn't happen three days ago, one week, one month, or even one year ago. To truly understand what happened to my family, I have to start at the very beginning, and that happened a long time ago.


Meet the Author

Lisa Lutz is the author of the New York Times bestselling, Edgar Award– and Macavity Award–nominated, and Alex Award–winning Spellman Files series and the novels How to Start a Fire and The Passenger. She lives and works in upstate New York.

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Spellman Files (Spellman Files Series #1) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 421 reviews.
mjk44 More than 1 year ago
Very similar to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. This first book introduces you to who the Spellman's are. Guaranteed a few laughs. Leaves a lot of potential for future novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Spellman Files' is the story told by private investigator Izzy Spellman, less about her work as an investigator (work she is trying to quit), and more about her role stuck in a family of private investigators. The book is about the characters in the family, and how they negotiate a life in which each member is driven to keep secrets by the fact that the family invariably works to pry those secrets loose. Readers of light mysteries will like this book, as will readers of 'chick-lit' -- but I am, as a rule, a reader of neither, and I recommend the book highly. The word 'frolic' in my title is there for the alliteration, and the book is frolicsome for most of its length, but the word is misleading, because by the end the story accumulates real emotional weight and is about real things about the relationships among family members.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My girlfriend suggested this book. I loved it. Fast reading - great characters,good story. I loved it so much I am now reading her second book.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In San Francisco Isabel Spellman has worked in the family business since she was twelve years old. However, the down side of being part of a family of private investigators is that your nosy parents have access to check into her dates though she is now twenty-eight years old. Still working for Spellman Investigations is an easy way to make a living.-------------- However, to the shock of her siblings, her Uncle Ray and her parents, Izzy falls in love with a dentist of all things worse a Bush loving dentist. Her parents worry she is setting a bad example for her fourteen years old younger sister Rae who is the Bay area¿s greatest barterer. He older brother David the attorney is pleased to a degree with a dentist as he figures on discounts though he has not sunk his teeth into the man's background. However, Uncle Ray has vanished again so this no time to think about love as Izzy is assigned as always to find him. Rae is hired to follow Izzy to uncover the identity of the mystical dentist while Izzy is assigned a cold case to resolve. Life is normal amidst the Spellmans until Rae vanishes and the get Smart tapes must go on pause.--------------- This is a fun private investigative chick lit tale that will have readers chuckling at the antics of the zaniest family since the Sycamores rooted their shtick in You Can't Take It with You. The story line is driven by Izzy as she drives everyone around her dizzy with her antics. Fans of lighthearted amusing capers will appreciate this interesting thriller that showcases a grown up Nancy Drew trying to get a life outside her bugging family.-------------- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has something for everyone. Complicated family relationships, several story lines and lots of laughs and heartfelt trauma/drama along the way. I can¿t wait to read the next installment detailing the Spellman family adventures!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just when I was ready to give up on this book and write it off as a disappointment, Lutz kicked things into gear. I was halfway through it and the plot--or what I thought was the plot: i.e., finding Rae--had not started. I grew tired of some of the schemes and all the car chases. Some of those could have been eliminated. However, the book was so hilarious I was compelled to keep reading. And I'm glad I did. The genius of the book was the way the true plot was revealed in the last two chapters. It was almost like a rosebud finally opening up. Everything just came together so subtly. It was an excellent book and I look forward to more in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Spellman Files is absolutely hilarious. Lisa Lutz charecter "Izzy" has an absolutely great personality and a nice wry sense of humor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'll admit that, at the very beginning, I had to get used to the style of this author, but it was worth the effort (just a couple of chapters!). It was very funny, creative and intelligently written. As for the Janet Evanovich comparison, I found myself thinking that Ms. Evanovich should read this one to possibly get her thinking about originality. The last few of hers have been so tired. I look forward to another installment of the Spellmans.
Ozzy12 More than 1 year ago
The cover is awesome. The story had me hooked. Great Read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was great! I could not stop laughing! The entertainment I found in this book was unsurpassed by many other books I've read. Other than the brilliant comedic performance by the Spellman clan this book teaches you something everyone knows but never can truly admit. You family is your family, you cannot escape them via car chase or brilliant disguise. Your life is what you make it, even if you choose to pass out on front porches. And love is not easy, every lawyer isnt for you and a clean background check does not mean a healthy relationship. I look forward to more books from this incredible woman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Spellman family is hilarious. I will be reading more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me laughing out loud, shaking my head in disbelief, and crying. I loved it. I love a female lead who has flaws as well as strengths. I thought I needed a vampire and a bad-ass female lead to enjoy a book. I was wrong. I needed Izzy Spellman and her crazy disfunctional family to really entertain me. I'm hooked!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read hundreds of myteries over the years, but none with the dry wit of Isabel Spellman. Her comments and personality had me laughing and smiling through the whole book......the way she handled situations was hysterical........totally entertaining. I look forward to reading 'The Curse of the Spellmans'......I've come to love the Spellman family and their antics!!! (I originally read this book because I work in a library at Spellman H.S. in the Bronx....I'm glad that it caught my attention......thank you Miss Lutz.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a Very Enjoyable-Read (worth more than a few laughs-out-loud) but I did wish that some of the story had been edited a little tighter....and some of the other characters brought out more...But I do look forward to more Spellman Family adventures in San Francisco....
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book based on the reviews but I'm not sure I read the same book. Whoever compared this book to a Janet Evanovich has obviously never read one. I kept thinking it had to get better. It didn't. There was no plot and not very amusing either.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with the Spellmans (and their author) within the first 50 pages. Well written and laugh out loud funny, this quirky family is the one you're glad you never had, but somehow wish you did.
RT-the-P More than 1 year ago
This is just an OK effort by a writer who is better than that. When the quirkiness of the characters is the most outstanding trait of the story, there just isn't enough to capture the reader's attention and keep it. Nothing about this book kept me going through it to the end except the expectation that the (usually entertaining) author had something really good in store for me if I was patient enough to get to it. I was wrong.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of the Spellman family was an enjoyable, humorous read. I hope there is a follow-up. Not like Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels and that's okay. I would be disappointed if Lisa Lutz had copied her style.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Do not be fooled by the blurb from i The Devil Wears Prada /i author Lauren Weisberger on the cover of this book. Although i The Spellman Files /i is a breezy read with a spunky heroine, it is not your run-of-the-mill chick lit tome complete with travails about shopping, weight and men who can't commit. Well, okay, there is a romantic sub-plot, involving a sputtering relationship between a cute dentist and the protagonist, Izzy. But that is as far as the resemblance goes. Izzy, 28, is not even remotely interested in fashion. In her not-so-distant youth, she preferred partying, drugs and unsuitable men. A private investigator by trade, like most of her family members, this San Francisco girl is far more interested in the mechanics of spying, snooping and uncovering dirty little secrets. Written with verve and humour, this is an entertaining read. And it offers a welcome respite from the sometimes wearying, whiny tone of some chick lit novels. Izzy is a little messed up and has her share of vices, but she is also matter-of-fact about how romance is a crapshoot and believes that life's greatest mystery is not how to find that Better Half but how to get acquainted with yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book! I enjoyed the funny dialogue and interesting characters. This is a page turner filled with action and entertainment. I am excited to see what happens next, and hope I don¿t have to wait too long for the next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book will make you laugh, guaranteed. A totally dysfunctional family of PIs who spy on each other from birth is the basis for this first book from a promising new author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love reading mysteries and generally read a few a week. Lisa Lutz wrote such a humorous and fun mystery in The Spellman Files. How could you not love Izzy and relate to her or any of the other Spellmans? The Ray and Rae show is pure genius and every family has their own David. I often found myself cringing as Izzy gets herself into one imbroglio or another. I look forward to a movie and a continuation of Lutz antics!
Guest More than 1 year ago
THE SPELLMAN FILES by Lisa Lutz puts an hilarious new spin on the idea of the 'family business'. The Spellman parents started the Spellman Private Investigating Firm before their children were born. Eldest son, David, was born perfect in all ways. When he graduated from college, he became the lawyer for all of the interfamily 'binding' contracts. He was also bribed by Mom to find lawyer friends to 'have coffee with Izzy'. This second child, sister Izzy, came along two years after David. She learned to follow her parents in all their ways, and is the narrator of this top spinning funny mystery novel. Youngest sister, Rae, came along years later, but started right in learning the businesses when she was just 6 years old. By her young teen years, surveillance was her fun activity of choice. Surveillance of anyone, anywhere, at any time, including her own family members. Banning her surveillance times became Rae's punishment, and Izzy found herself searching through the Tenderloin districts at all hours of the night to find Rae--assuming she was not at Milo's bar waiting for Izzy to 'come and get her before they close me down for serving minors'. Around all these interfamily shenanigans, the Spellman PI firm actually serves to keep the family afloat. The reader is caught up in the intriguing mysteries, while cheering for various family members. This book should become an instant best-selling new mystery series!!! I would expect the further installments of THE SPELLMAN FILES to continue for years to come. Lisa Lutz has found her notch, and the public will find new best literary friends for life!!!
Anonymous 14 days ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a little slow to start