The Short Version: Izzy Spellman, having successfully staged a hostile takeover of Spellman Investigations, is having a little more trouble being the boss than she expected. With her parents aggressively not-working, her sister running her own strange scheme, and the sudden threat of embezzlement from their richest client, this might be curtains for the Spellmans.
The Review: When I heard that this sixth (and arguably best-so-far) installment of the Spellman Files would be titled “The Last Word” (and not a clever mystery/old-school-horror-movie styled title that included “Spellmans”), I immediately got worried. I’m not saying that I don’t want Ms. Lutz to expand her horizons (another co-written David Hayward book wouldn’t go amiss, is all I’m saying) or anything but… I just can’t envision a world without the Spellmans. So, thanks to Simon and Schuster for including a clever little “interrogation” with this pre-release copy of the book. Let’s just say that it ends thusly:
Q: What lies in store for the Spellman clan? Do they have a future?
A: You do know they’re not real, right? But, yes, they have a future.
I’m mostly providing this vaguely spoiler-ish tidbit because, faithful reader, I didn’t want you to be as concerned as I have been. It’s nice to know that, in some form, the Spellmans will live on and we can continue to visit with them, even if the circumstances may change a bit.
All of this having been said (and as I alluded to earlier), if this was to be the last word for the Spellman Family… well, it would be a fitting send-off. Picking up hot on the heels of Document #5, Izzy seems to’ve finally hit a sort of wall. Her hostile takeover of Spellman Investigations at the end of said previous document seemed like it might’ve been the spur in her side to actually mature a little bit (notice how I didn’t say grow up – there is a difference). But instead, it’s not until she realizes just how over her head she actually is that any sort of maturation occurs.
The world seems to be leaving Izzy behind, in a way. Things are happening far outside of her control – with her family, with her ex-boyfriend (#13 – oh, Henry…), with her niece, with her favorite client… and she’s struggling, here, to stay afloat. Her sense of humor is intact, as are her hilarious footnotes and asides, but there’s a desperation underneath all of this. You get the sense throughout the entirety of the novel that Izzy is really working hard and coming up with nothing. We’ve all been in that situation, in one way or another, and the frustration rings true. Lutz has, over the course of six books, taken Izzy on an impressive journey towards (not to, never to) some semblance of “functional human being” and as she is wheeled out of frame at the end of the story, she has some remarkably lucid realizations. Some of them drug-induced, we’re told, but that doesn’t undercut how serious and considered they are. It’s been a pleasure to watch Izzy grow and to roll with the various punches over all these years.
And the punches… this book carries heavier emotional weight than any book since perhaps the first (I still get choked up thinking about Rae and their uncle at the end of that book). Life-moving-on has always been a theme of these books and Lutz has never shirked from placing real-life problems/issues/obstacles in her characters’ paths, but there is a sense that life has caught up to the Spellmans. After all, her parents are over 60 – and it’s always disconcerting to face down the idea that our parents won’t remain indestructible forever. Death, dying, maturation, moving on… it’s all here and it’s all handled surprisingly – well, no, not surprisingly… totally logically, actually, considering how well Lutz handles humor – tactfully. The Spellmans have become part of my (as a reader) extended family. I care about them. And it was nice to have a bit of… not closure, per se, but a sense of certain things returning to an almost-status-quo. If this family could be said to have a status quo.
Anyway, I should mention a couple other wonderful things about the book: continued references to the best game ever (Plants vs. Zombies), two real cases that actually get the best of Izzy’s not-inconsiderable talents, and everything about Princess Banana. “No Izzy” slash Izzy’s interactions with the wee terror that is Madison just… everything about it makes me smile. I also liked hearing about more of Izzy’s youthful indiscretions – makes me wish I could go back and be more of a badass as a youth. My parents probably wouldn’t appreciate that sentiment, but oh well.
Rating: 5 out of 5. I devoured this book in less than 24 hours – it’s hilarious, touching, and the strongest installment of the series to boot. I look forward to the change that the very end presages – but mostly, I just look forward (as I always do) to whatever comes next from the pen of Ms. Lutz. Izzy will always have a place in my heart and the whole family (except maybe Grammy Spellman. (and you can take out the maybe.)) is always welcome at mine.
(ed. note – I should add a special thanks to Jessica Lawrence at S&S for going above and beyond to get me a copy of this book in advance. Oh and stay tuned for more Spellman related stuff soon – I feel the need to write about these gorgeous covers.)