Reading Group Guide
An Introduction to Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
"My mother used to say that if you can't verify a man's existence, you probably shouldn't go home with him." -- Isabel Spellman, Curse of the Spellmans
Isabel "Izzy" Spellman -- everyone's favorite female PI and the madcap heroine of the uproarious New York Times bestseller The Spellman Files -- is back, and she's just been sprung from jail for the fourth time in three months. When she finds herself homeless and simultaneously barred from the Spellman offices-cum-residence by a very inconvenient temporary restraining order, Izzy meets with Mort Schilling, her octogenarian lawyer, to hammer out a defense and save her now endangered PI license. Over San Francisco's best New York-style deli fare, Izzy recaps the highlights of her recent past and her encounters with the man whose villainy she's determined to unveil -- even if she must break the law to do it.
When Izzy first met John Brown, she couldn't have been more pleased with Spellman Investigations' new neighbor. Handsome in a way reminiscent of her favorite Hitchcock actor,* a great cook, and interested in her, John was too good to be true, so Izzy did what any sensible Spellman would do -- she began to investigate him. But between his "so common, too common, conveniently common" name, his curious reluctance to let her rifle through his wallet, and the permanently locked room in his apartment, Izzy can't get the information she needs for a background check. "His kiss made me forget everything," she admits, but -- forced to rely solely on her gut instincts -- Izzy concludes that he is up to no good.
John Brown soon becomes "Subject" and Izzy's infatuation quickly turns to obsession -- of the nonromantic variety -- when she bumps into him as he's depositing his recycling and observes that "For a gardener, he sure shreds a lot of paper." Izzy finds her suspicions validated when further surveillance reveals Subject participating in two clandestine package exchanges. However, Subject proves to be as wily as Izzy is persistent, and soon both the law and her parents are siding with him and trying to put a stop to her snooping.
To further complicate matters, ferreting out Subject's crimes isn't the only unpaid investigation that Izzy is working. A peculiar family on the best of days, the Spellman clan is outdoing itself in the erratic behavior department, so much so that Izzy finds herself writing up Suspicious Behavior Reports on each member -- even her brother, David, a normally boring specimen of male perfection -- hoping to figure out why everyone around her is acting so nutty. Her hitherto health-phobic dad is surreptitiously toting around a yoga mat and eating oatmeal, her mother is making midnight forays to vandalize a motorbike, and David has been moping and indulging in midday whiskey-tippling while his wife, Petra, suddenly goes out of town. Only Izzy's teenage sister seems to be herself. But since "normal" for Rae means that she's recently run over her forty-year-old police inspector and "best friend," Henry Stone, Izzy finds herself posing as Henry's fiancée to allay the fears of a nosy social services worker. To cap it all off, someone is reprising Izzy's most creative juvenile vandalism and the victim hires Spellman Investigations to find the culprit.
Curse of the Spellmans is a laugh-out-loud escapade that marks the much-anticipated return of detection's most winning dysfunctional family and confirms Lisa Lutz as one of today's finest comic writers because whenever Isabel Spellman** is on the case hilarious high-jinks are never far behind.
**Or Izzy Ellmanspay -- depending upon which business card she's using.
1. Is Henry only interested in Rae's welfare or are there other reasons he's let himself become a de facto Spellman?
2. Why should Subject's complimentary remarks about Izzy's haircut tip her off that he probably isn't the right man for her?
3. Does Izzy jump the gun on her suspicions? Would you feel comfortable dating someone as private as Subject?
4. Does Mrs. Spellman already sense Izzy's feelings for Henry when she asks Izzy to masquerade as his fiancée?
5. How could Izzy and Petra's Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day "modifications" of Mrs. Chandler's holiday tableaux be adjusted to make more of a political statement?
6. Are Rae's duplicitous e-mails to her vacationing parents entirely self-serving or do they actually help her parents' marriage?
7. What Spellman parenting techniques/aphorisms would you incorporate into your own child(ren)'s upbringing?
8. In which Olympic sport could you envision Izzy competing? Why?
9. What does Izzy's evolution from addictively watching Get Smart to Dr. Who say about her? Do you think Izzy will see the upcoming movie adaptation of Get Smart?
10. Other than professionally, in what ways do the Spellmans' suspicious natures and surveillance habits benefit them as a family?
11. Despite knowing her dating habits, both Mort and Daniel offer to set Izzy up romantically. Do you know someone -- real or fictional -- that you would like to introduce her to? Who is it and why do you think they would hit it off?
12. Imagine you're a bartender inventing the Izzy Spellman cocktail. What would be in it?