Tag Archives: detective series

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Trail of the Spellmans: Document #5 by Lisa Lutz (Simon and Schuster, $25.00, 373 pages)

I decided that sitting in a stairwell all night eavesdropping on a conversation in my own home was undignified, so I searched the office for a recording device that I could plant just outside the door.   Then I could listen from the luxury of the office.   Much more dignified.

Wacky, ironic, self-aware and irreverent are adjectives that sum up Isabel Spellman who is the narrator of the rather rambling and highly-entertaining journal of her family’s detective agency activities.   Their headquarters at 1799 Clay Street in San Francisco, California, also happens to be the family home.   Although this address is not really that of a home in San Francisco (a check of Google Earth confirms this fact), there are ample real locations in The City to validate Ms. Lutz’ familiarity with the locale.   She even goes so far as to disguise the name of a bakery in the Mission that has long lines in the hope that its fame will not be expanded by disclosure in the book.   My bet is that she’s referring to Tartine Bakery & Cafe at 600 Guerrero Street.

A family business like the Spellman’s presents opportunities to create intrigue and internal clashes.   The mix is enlivened by the presence of Demetrius Merriweather, a recently-released and wrongfully-convicted 43-year-old man, whose freedom after 20 years of incarceration is attributed to the efforts of the Spellmans.   When Grammy Spellman moves in, the family dynamics are tweaked beyond their usual passive-aggressiveness.

Lisa Lutz has enhanced the charm of this, her fifth book of the Spellman series, with illustrations and an appendix that includes background information on the characters, as well as documents referenced in the body of the story.

This reviewer caught herself laughing out loud on numerous occasions while reading this book.   Perhaps it’s time to read the rest of the series.   Hearty laughter is always a welcome accompaniment to a clever tale.

Highly recommended.

Ruta ArellanoTrail of the Spellmans (nook book)

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   The full title of the single from R.E.M.’s Document: R.E.M. No. 5 album is “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”   Another hit from that album was “The One I Love.”


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Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

The Burning: A Novel by Jane Casey (Minotaur Books, $15.99, 354 pages)

Here’s a mystery novel for fans of the TV show Law and Order: Criminal Intent.   Author Jane Casey has launched a new detective series featuring a young female British detective constable named Maeve Kerrigan.   Maeve yearns to prove herself; however, as the sole female in an investigative team assigned to identify and apprehend a serial killer, she has many obstacles to overcome.   Moreover, the team’s boss, Superintendent Godley, makes every effort to provide Maeve with opportunities that will allow her to advance in her career.   Being the favorite can create some serious challenges for getting along with the rest of the investigative team.

The serial killer has been nick-named The Burning Man because his victims are found amid the ashes of their bodies.   These victims were thoroughly beaten to a pulp before being torched.   The fifth victim is found but not exactly in the same condition as the prior four.   Yes, she has been burned, but no, her head has not been bashed in.   Maeve and her coworkers sift through the scant evidence in a race to find the killer before he strikes again.

Ms. Casey uses the tried and true technique of devoting chapters to individual characters.   She uses the first person narrative in different type fonts to draw the reader into the two main character’s minds and experiences.   Maeve and Louise – the best friend of the fifth victim,  are highly developed persons with a strong dedication to their own goals.

The mystery moves along at a steady pace and the reader’s never bored or overwhelmed by the action.   Having a story told from a variety of perspectives serves to heighten the drama and intrigue.   Ms. Casey’s conclusion is also a beginning for the next book in her series.   Let’s hope it’s as good as this, her second novel.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   In Europe, the title is The Burning: A Crime Novel.   “Astute, complex, layered – and very twisted.”   Lee Child

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