Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Files series (or documents) are mainly known for their humor, but they also deal with many of life’s tougher struggles head on. No matter how strange PI Isabel “Izzy” Spellman’s cases or the entanglements of her dysfunctional family (who are also her co-workers) get, Lutz is able to make us relate. In her latest, The Last Word, she delves even deeper into the problems of family and work.
It was bad enough when Izzy was working for her parents, Albert and Olivia, but now she’s learning how powerless she is as the boss. The folks haven’t taken well to her hostile take over of the agency and have staged a passive-aggressive rebellion by coming to work in their pajamas and curlers and barely doing their work load. It’s no wonder she does the bidding of her full time client, Edward Slayter, a businessman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and somewhat of a second, more stable father to her. When her younger sister, Rae, adept at surveillance and blackmail, comes back to “help”, Izzy has her suspicions. The plot truly thickens when evidence of embezzlement from Slayter’s company implicates The Spellman Agencey.
In a genre known for putting things in order, Lutz writes about chaos better than anybody else. Besides the takeover of the company, the embezzlement, and whatever Rae is up to, Izzy has a few cases to juggle, a possible new boyfriend, and a family crisis to deal with. Lutz captures the in-over-your-head feeling as she struggles to be detective, boss, and daughter. A subplot with her dating one of Slayter’s lawyers has less to do with romance than a respite from everything tugging at her.
The book does a solid job tackling the politics and emotions of having to switch roles with your parents as you both get older. It studies the resentment such upheaval brings and the division between siblings. Slayter’s Alzheimer’s and his demands add a different flavor to this problem for Izzy. Lutz portrays the stress, bitterness, love and every emotion in between in the situation, along with a heavy dose of humor.
The Last Word tickles your funny bone while it pulls no punches. It frames the isolation of life’s stress and the emotional crimes family love seems to pardon in entertaining fashion. With Lutz, you have to laugh, otherwise all you can do is cry.