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 growing up and letting go, shows through occasionally, warming up this hilarious debut.
A fresh story that works real issues through an offbeat premise.