The Spellman Files (Spellman Files Series #1)

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

Part Nancy Drew, part Dirty Harry, 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.

The Spellman Files is the first novel in a winning and hilarious new series featuring the Spellman family in all its lovable chaos.

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Kirkus

"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
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)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743571357
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 3/11/2008
  • Series: Spellman Files Series , #1
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.75 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Ari Graynor's theater credits include Little Dog Laughed, Brooklyn Boy, Dog Sees God, Spanish Girl, Fall, King Lear, and Into the Woods. Films include For Your Consideration, The Great New Wonderful, Game 6, Imaginary Heroes, and Mystic River. On TV, she has appeared in Veronica Mars, The Sopranos, and Law & Order: SVU.

Lisa Lutz is the author of the New York Times bestselling, Edgar Award- and Macavity Award-nominated, and Alex Award-winning Spellman series. She is the coauthor of Heads You Lose, written with David Hayward. She lives and works in upstate New York.

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Read an Excerpt

The Spellman Files

A Novel
By Lisa Lutz

Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2007 Lisa Lutz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416532392

THE INTERVIEW

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 andOlivia Spellman, is that correct?"

"Yes."

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

"Yes."

"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.



Continues...


Excerpted from The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz Copyright © 2007 by Lisa Lutz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Introduction

An Introduction to The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Surveillance ReportSubject: Isabel "Izzy" Spellman
Age: 28
Occupation: Private Investigator
Employer: Spellman Investigations
Residence: 1799 Clay Street (Spellman family residence and location of Spellman Investigations), San Francisco
Hobbies: Watching Get Smart reruns, entering and exiting through windows rather than doors, drinking
Known Associates: Petra Clark (Lower Haight Street hairdresser), Milo (bartender at The Philosopher's Club)
Recent Suspicious Activity: Impersonating a schoolteacher, physically threatening a 14-year-old boy, breaking and entering a SFPD officer's apartment

Isabel "Izzy" Spellman — Private Investigator and one of the most original comic heroines to debut in years — is on the run. After a dizzying chase through the streets of San Francisco, she turns to confront her pursuers: "Mom. Dad. This has to stop" (p. 2). Izzy's plea betrays her desperation — not only to shake their loving but overweening parental attentions but to make sense of the chaos* into which her life has recently devolved. She's just been dumped by a dentist, the witnesses in the cold case she's working are stonewalling her, and her fifteen-year-old sister, Rae, has disappeared — presumably kidnapped. Izzy is well aware that her life and family are more than a little unusual but she needs answers. The problem is, she doesn't know the questions or even whom to ask.

At the age of 28, Izzy still lives with her parents in their rambling San Francisco Victorian home-cum-office. An operative in the family detective business, SpellmanInvestigations, she has never held down a job where deceit and suspicion weren't considered standard operating procedure. When she finds herself under interrogation by Henry Stone — the police inspector in charge of Rae's disappearance — Izzy casts back to the root of the Spellman troubles: the birth of her older brother, David. Handsome, brilliant, athletic, and possessed of "modesty beyond his years" (p. 11), David is a freakishly perfect man born into their otherwise perfectly freakish family. Two years older than Izzy and now a successful corporate lawyer, David defined everything that Izzy would rebel against being.

After years of petty and not-so-petty delinquency, Izzy eventually settles down to an acceptably respectable lifestyle but her parents continue to fear that the "old Isabel" might return and corrupt the precocious and extremely impressionable Rae. On a routine surveillance job at the San Francisco Tennis Club, Izzy falls for Daniel Castillo, a handsome dentist who shares her passion for Get Smart reruns. While most parents might find Daniel promising boyfriend material — and certainly several steps up from Izzy's usual type — a string of run-ins with unsavory dentists has left them suspicious of anyone authorized to dispense laughing gas. As Izzy resorts to one madcap subterfuge after another in the hopes of keeping Daniel and her parents in the dark about one another, she realizes that it's high time to leave Spellman Investigations and start a normal life.

Unfortunately, Izzy's parents extort her into taking on one last case before they'll pony up with the references she needs to find other work. Much to everyone's chagrin, Izzy becomes obsessed with solving the hitherto unsolved fifteen-year-old missing persons case, no matter whose toes she steps on. In the midst of it all, Izzy must take time out to track down her reprobate Uncle Ray — whose "lost weekends" of gambling and binge drinking now figure in the double-digits — as well as ferret out the identity of David's secret girlfriend. So when Rae mysteriously disappears, Izzy finds herself pushed to the edge of what this hard-drinking, wise-cracking PI can handle.

At once heart-warming, suspenseful, and laugh-out-loud funny, The Spellman Files is a brilliantly zany take on the hard-boiled detective genre and introduces us to an utterly new kind of screwball heroine. Spend some time with the Spellmans and you'll find out why the family that sleuths together stays together.

*Chaos in its traditional sense as opposed to KAOS, The International Organiztion of Evil, which also figures prominently in Izzy's life.

Suggested Questions for Discussion:

1. Izzy's delinquent behavior actually prepared her for her work as a private investigator. "My life to date had ingrained in me a certain natural stealth, had taught me how to test limits, and had disciplined me to know precisely how much I could get away with" (p. 25). Do you retain a youthful bad habit that has actually benefited you as an adult? How might Rae's recreational surveillance benefit her, in ways other than being a PI, as an adult?

2. "There was nothing my mother wouldn't do to protect her children, even if it was morally ambiguous" (p. 61). How did Mrs. Spellman's exposure of Ex-Boyfriend #6's porn addiction ultimately affect Izzy?

3. Lawyer #4 describes Izzy as "a cross between Dirty Harry and Nancy Drew" (p. 90). Is this an accurate description? Are there other sleuths that Izzy is heir to?

4. Besides Daniel's "cocoa legs," Izzy is initially attracted to him because of his assertion that, "some people need to win and some people need to lose." (p. 123) What does this say about her?

5. Are David and Petra being paranoid in hiding their relationship from Izzy? What might she have done had she known they were dating earlier?

6. Uncle Ray tells Izzy that "being enemies with Rae was easier than being friends with her" (p. 204). Could this be said about any other Spellmans?

7. Does wire-tapping constitute a larger betrayal of privacy than simple eavesdropping or tailing?

8. Their mom tells David that, "'Without this job, [Izzy is] Uncle Ray waiting to happen'" (p. 235). Is that an accurate assessment?9. Was the threat of a temporary restraining order the best way to prevent Izzy from further pursuing the Snow case? What method of discouragement would you recommend?

10. Daniel claims that his romantic relationship with Isabel ended with "the fake drug deal" (p. 309) Do you think they might otherwise have been able to work out their differences? What qualities does a man need to be compatible with Isabel?

Bonus Quiz: Could you be a Spellman?

1.You've just met someone new and attractive. Do you:

a. mumble and look away shyly
b. ask for his/her phone number
c. "borrow" his/her wallet so you can copy the information from his/her driver's license for a background check

2. You never leave the house without:

a. a heavy object such as a flashlight in case you need to break a head/taillight
b. a snack in case you get hungry
c. an extra $20 in case of an emergency

3. After losing a game of tennis, you think:

a. "that was fun."
b. "next time I'll win."
c. "losing is like breathing to me."

4. You get caught in a little white lie so you:

a. confess and apologize profusely
b. make up a more elaborate lie — or several — to cover your tracks
c. act defensive

5. The best present you ever received as a child was:

a. a new bike
b. a puppy
c. a set of lock picks

Give yourself a point for every correct answer.
Correction Key: 1. c.; 2. a.; 3. c.; 4. b.; 5. c.

If you scored:
0-2 points, you're hopelessly straight
3-4 points, Spellman operative material
5 points, a Spellman separated at birth

Lisa Lutz is the author of The Spellman Files, a New York Times best-seller; Curse of the Spellmans, a national best-seller and nominee for both the Macavity and Edgar® Awards for Best Novel of 2008; and the critically acclaimed Revenge of the Spellmans. Although she attended UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, the University of Leeds in England, and San Francisco State University, she still does not have a bachelor's degree. Lisa spent most of the 1990s hopping through a string of low-paying odd jobs while writing and rewriting the screenplay Plan B, a mob comedy. After the film was made in 2000, she vowed she would never write another screenplay. A motion picture adaptation of The Spellman Files is in development with Paramount Pictures.

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Reading Group Guide

An Introduction to The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Surveillance Report Subject: Isabel "Izzy" Spellman Age: 28
Occupation: Private Investigator Employer: Spellman Investigations Residence: 1799 Clay Street (Spellman family residence and location of Spellman Investigations), San Francisco Hobbies: Watching Get Smart reruns, entering and exiting through windows rather than doors, drinking Known Associates: Petra Clark (Lower Haight Street hairdresser), Milo (bartender at The Philosopher's Club)
Recent Suspicious Activity: Impersonating a schoolteacher, physically threatening a 14-year-old boy, breaking and entering a SFPD officer's apartment

Isabel "Izzy" Spellman — Private Investigator and one of the most original comic heroines to debut in years — is on the run. After a dizzying chase through the streets of San Francisco, she turns to confront her pursuers: "Mom. Dad. This has to stop" (p. 2). Izzy's plea betrays her desperation — not only to shake their loving but overweening parental attentions but to make sense of the chaos* into which her life has recently devolved. She's just been dumped by a dentist, the witnesses in the cold case she's working are stonewalling her, and her fifteen-year-old sister, Rae, has disappeared — presumably kidnapped. Izzy is well aware that her life and family are more than a little unusual but she needs answers. The problem is, she doesn't know the questions or even whom to ask.

At the age of 28, Izzy still lives with her parents in their rambling San Francisco Victorian home-cum-office. An operative in the family detective business, Spellman Investigations, she has never held down a job where deceit and suspicion weren't considered standard operating procedure. When she finds herself under interrogation by Henry Stone — the police inspector in charge of Rae's disappearance — Izzy casts back to the root of the Spellman troubles: the birth of her older brother, David. Handsome, brilliant, athletic, and possessed of "modesty beyond his years" (p. 11), David is a freakishly perfect man born into their otherwise perfectly freakish family. Two years older than Izzy and now a successful corporate lawyer, David defined everything that Izzy would rebel against being.

After years of petty and not-so-petty delinquency, Izzy eventually settles down to an acceptably respectable lifestyle but her parents continue to fear that the "old Isabel" might return and corrupt the precocious and extremely impressionable Rae. On a routine surveillance job at the San Francisco Tennis Club, Izzy falls for Daniel Castillo, a handsome dentist who shares her passion for Get Smart reruns. While most parents might find Daniel promising boyfriend material — and certainly several steps up from Izzy's usual type — a string of run-ins with unsavory dentists has left them suspicious of anyone authorized to dispense laughing gas. As Izzy resorts to one madcap subterfuge after another in the hopes of keeping Daniel and her parents in the dark about one another, she realizes that it's high time to leave Spellman Investigations and start a normal life.

Unfortunately, Izzy's parents extort her into taking on one last case before they'll pony up with the references she needs to find other work. Much to everyone's chagrin, Izzy becomes obsessed with solving the hitherto unsolved fifteen-year-old missing persons case, no matter whose toes she steps on. In the midst of it all, Izzy must take time out to track down her reprobate Uncle Ray — whose "lost weekends" of gambling and binge drinking now figure in the double-digits — as well as ferret out the identity of David's secret girlfriend. So when Rae mysteriously disappears, Izzy finds herself pushed to the edge of what this hard-drinking, wise-cracking PI can handle.

At once heart-warming, suspenseful, and laugh-out-loud funny, The Spellman Files is a brilliantly zany take on the hard-boiled detective genre and introduces us to an utterly new kind of screwball heroine. Spend some time with the Spellmans and you'll find out why the family that sleuths together stays together.

*Chaos in its traditional sense as opposed to KAOS, The International Organiztion of Evil, which also figures prominently in Izzy's life.

Suggested Questions for Discussion:

1. Izzy's delinquent behavior actually prepared her for her work as a private investigator. "My life to date had ingrained in me a certain natural stealth, had taught me how to test limits, and had disciplined me to know precisely how much I could get away with" (p. 25). Do you retain a youthful bad habit that has actually benefited you as an adult? How might Rae's recreational surveillance benefit her, in ways other than being a PI, as an adult?

2. "There was nothing my mother wouldn't do to protect her children, even if it was morally ambiguous" (p. 61). How did Mrs. Spellman's exposure of Ex-Boyfriend #6's porn addiction ultimately affect Izzy?

3. Lawyer #4 describes Izzy as "a cross between Dirty Harry and Nancy Drew" (p. 90). Is this an accurate description? Are there other sleuths that Izzy is heir to?

4. Besides Daniel's "cocoa legs," Izzy is initially attracted to him because of his assertion that, "some people need to win and some people need to lose." (p. 123) What does this say about her?

5. Are David and Petra being paranoid in hiding their relationship from Izzy? What might she have done had she known they were dating earlier?

6. Uncle Ray tells Izzy that "being enemies with Rae was easier than being friends with her" (p. 204). Could this be said about any other Spellmans?

7. Does wire-tapping constitute a larger betrayal of privacy than simple eavesdropping or tailing?

8. Their mom tells David that, "'Without this job, [Izzy is] Uncle Ray waiting to happen'" (p. 235). Is that an accurate assessment? 9. Was the threat of a temporary restraining order the best way to prevent Izzy from further pursuing the Snow case? What method of discouragement would you recommend?

10. Daniel claims that his romantic relationship with Isabel ended with "the fake drug deal" (p. 309) Do you think they might otherwise have been able to work out their differences? What qualities does a man need to be compatible with Isabel?

Bonus Quiz: Could you be a Spellman?

1.You've just met someone new and attractive. Do you:

a. mumble and look away shyly b. ask for his/her phone number c. "borrow" his/her wallet so you can copy the information from his/her driver's license for a background check

2. You never leave the house without:

a. a heavy object such as a flashlight in case you need to break a head/taillight b. a snack in case you get hungry c. an extra $20 in case of an emergency

3. After losing a game of tennis, you think:

a. "that was fun."
b. "next time I'll win."
c. "losing is like breathing to me."

4. You get caught in a little white lie so you:

a. confess and apologize profusely b. make up a more elaborate lie — or several — to cover your tracks c. act defensive

5. The best present you ever received as a child was:

a. a new bike b. a puppy c. a set of lock picks

Give yourself a point for every correct answer.
Correction Key: 1. c.; 2. a.; 3. c.; 4. b.; 5. c.

If you scored:
0-2 points, you're hopelessly straight
3-4 points, Spellman operative material
5 points, a Spellman separated at birth

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    More Chick-Lit than Mystery

    CD/Abridged Chick-Lit: This book was not much a mystery, but it was a good lighthearted listen. Izzy is employed as a private eye. Sounds exciting, right? Not when your two bosses are your parents. My favorite character is her Uncle Ray, who comes to live with them. He was a health fanatic who ran every day and ate well. However, he got lung cancer. After surviving, he did a 180 in his life & drinks, smokes, and gambles excessively. He is kindhearted, honest, & will work for beer. My favorite line in the audio was when Izzy is talking to Uncle Ray. He responds, "Izzy, you've always been my favorite, designated driver." I about wet my pants and crashed my car when I heard that. Yes, the narrator reads the book with a non-enthusiastic monotone voice, but I think that is the point the author is making. Izzy is in her 20's, lost and/or bored with her life. Her list of ex-boyfriends and their exiting line to her is priceless. "You did a credit check on my brother?!?" The best part is I won book three on Goodreads! I do wish the CD wasn't abridged. I wanted so much more!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 2, 2009

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