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Curse of the Spellmans - Review

So imagine... don't worry it's just an expression... my surprise when I sat down to read Lisa Lutz's second book, the Edgar nominated CURSE OF THE SPELLMANS. Surprised mainly because I found the first book to be okay, but nothing special. Certainly not special enough to pick up the second book so quickly.

Unfortunately, I pushed through the first hundred pages having many of the same problems I did the first time around. If I had to distill it down to one comment it would have to be forced whimsy. Every character is an odd ball. Every situation provokes a contrived bit of comedy or melodrama. Every bit of dialogue is written as a one prolonged punchline to a joke that has worn out its welcome. Yikes!

But then the whole book changed for me, and I loved almost every single page of it. It is the oddest reversal of fortune a book has had for me in quite sometime. One thing that helped to right the ship in this case was the more focused character study. THE SPELLMAN FILES suffered from to0 many cooks. The non-conformist parents, the straight laced older brother. The screwed-up uncle, the partner in crime best friend, the litany of ex-boyfriends, plus what felt like a dozen more zany inhabitants. In CURSE OF THE SPELLMANS the focus is down to just three characters. Isabel, our hero, her younger sister Rae, and Rae's best friend, 40 year old cop Henry Stone. The rest of the characters are where supporting characters should be... in the background. It is addition by subtraction. Yes, all of those wacky characters are here too, but the story is not shanghaied by their presence.

The success of the book was also dependent on the modulation of my own expectations. The Spellman books are not likely to be intricate crime stories. The narratives will never be strong in that regard. I don't me to damn the book far from it. It is just not the point. Ms. Lutz's strength lies in her ability to write fallible characters that a reader can identify and commiserate with, while also placing them into slightly ridiculous situations where laughter... or at least a warm chuckle... is mandatory. The 'funny' is front and center here, and as long as you know that I think CURSE OF THE SPELLMANS makes for a very enjoyable read.

The third book in this the Spellman series, REVENGE OF THE SPELLMANS, will be released March 10.


Kerrie said…
It wasn't my cup of tea either Dan. I decided it was not my type of humour, and perhaps too chick-littish for me

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