I love the Spellmans, I truly do, but The Last Word, the latest installment in the Spellman saga felt tired. The Spellmans are an odd ball family of private investigators created by author Lisa Lutz. Their previous novels are light, funny detective fare, comparable to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series (review). The Last Word can also fall into that category – it was light and funny, but it was also too long and a little rambling. And for the first couple hundred pages I wasn’t entirely sure if there was even a mystery to solve.
However, Lutz has included all her tried and true hooks that made me love her previous novels. There are ample footnotes (as a former scholar I find footnotes to be enticing), numerous digressions and a spattering of primary documents. The characters she worked so hard to develop over the earlier books in the series are still ridiculous, funny and up to their usual hi jinks.
As I read The Last Word I realized that I missed the previous book in the series. That did not make a huge difference to my appreciation of the story. Lutz’s ample use of footnotes makes it so that any of her books can work as a stand alone. The most significant change in this installment is that Izzy has taken over her parent’s private investigation agency in a hostile takeover. Not surprisingly her parents rebel.
Who would like this book? I stand by my long term commitment to recommending the Spellman books to those who enjoy light, humorous mysteries. BUT as committed as I am to Lutz’s earlier books, I would be hesitant to recommend The Last Word. If you’ve read the other books in the series then you are invested in the characters and it may be worth the read, but on it’s own I would give it a pass. That’s something I don’t often say.