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Curse of the Spellmans: Document #2
Curse of the Spellmans: Document #2
Curse of the Spellmans: Document #2
Ebook466 pages5 hours

Curse of the Spellmans: Document #2

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



About this ebook

In this sidesplittingly funny follow-up to the New York Times bestselling The Spellman Files, San Francisco’s own highly functioning yet supremely dysfunctional family of private investigators are back on the case in another mystery full of suspicion, surveillance, humor, and surprise from award-winning author Lisa Lutz. Curse of the Spellmans was nominated for both the Edgar Award and the Macavity Award, and the Izzy Spellman Mysteries have earned comparisons to everything from Carl Hiaasen and Janet Evanovich to Veronica Mars and Bridget Jones.

When Izzy Spellman, PI, is arrested for the fourth time in three months, she writes it off as a job hazard. She’s been (obsessively) keeping surveillance on a suspicious next door neighbor (suspect’s name: John Brown), convinced he’s up to no good—even if her parents (the management at Spellman Investigations) are not.

When the (displeased) management refuses to bail Izzy out, it is Morty, Izzy’s octogenarian lawyer, who comes to her rescue. But before he can build a defense, he has to know the facts. Over weak coffee and diner sandwiches, Izzy unveils the whole truth and nothing but the truth—as only she, a thirty-year-old licensed professional, can.

When not compiling Suspicious Behavior Reports on all her family members, staking out her neighbor, or trying to keep her sister, Rae, from stalking her “best friend,” Inspector Henry Stone, Izzy has been busy attempting to apprehend the copycat vandal whose attacks on Mrs. Chandler’s holiday lawn tableaux perfectly and eerily match a series of crimes from 1991–92, when Izzy and her best friend, Petra, happened to be at their most rebellious and delinquent. As Curse of the Spellmans unfolds, it’s clear that Morty may be on retainer, but Izzy is still very much on the case...er, cases—her own and that of every other Spellman family member.

Lisa Lutz brings her trademark wit and humor back in what Publishers Weekly calls a “sparkling sequel.” (Re)meet the Spellmans, a family in which eavesdropping is a mandatory skill, locks are meant to be picked, past missteps are never forgotten, and blackmail is the preferred form of negotiation—all in the name of unconditional love.
Release dateMar 11, 2008
Curse of the Spellmans: Document #2
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Lisa Lutz

Lisa Lutz is the author of the bestselling series, The Spellman Files. Her most recent novel, The Passenger, was described as “Spellbinding” by The Daily Mail. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including an Alex Award, and nominations for the Edgar, Barry, Anthony awards, among many others.

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Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Warning: Spending time with the Spellman Family is highly addictive and produces uncontrollable bouts of laughter.Two years have passed since Lisa Lutz’s debut novel introduced the lovable, dysfunctional Spellman Family and mesmerized readers from coast to coast with the kind of snooping, scheming and blackmailing that could only exist between parties who truly care for one another.We rejoin Isabel Spellman (a.k.a. Izzy), in San Francisco, now thirty years old and once again working for her parents at Spellman Investigations. Enjoying independence living in Bernie’s apartment (an ex-cop and friend) away on vacation. But that was short-lived when he unexpectedly returns nursing a broken-heart, forcing a reluctant Izzy to move back home. Thus beginning the spin of an all-new web of action-packed insanity.Izzy becomes fixated on her parent’s new neighbor, John Brown. She’s plagued by unanswered questions…what’s in those bags of shredded paper? If you live alone, why lock doors inside your home? It just didn’t add up and her incessant probing makes Mr. Brown suspicious of her. One thing leads to another as she is convinced his landscaping business is merely a front or cover that’s hiding something much more serious. She investigates Mr. Brown relentlessly until he finally gets a restraining order against her. Arrested four times in the past three months, Izzy is in jeopardy of losing her PI license and even though her parents disagree strongly about Mr. Brown, she steadfastly refuses to let it go.All the while her father seems to be experiencing a “retirement age freak out” and her mother has taken to vandalizing a motorbike every night. Younger sister Rae has developed an intense friendship with Henry Stone, a police inspector with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The considerable age difference sparks the interest of Social Services, who despite the parents' argument, simply refuse to see things quite so cut and dried. So in order to protect Rae’s newly found “straight-laced way of life,” which everyone agrees should be credited to Mr. Stone’s obvious positive influence, big sister, is recruited and agrees to play along, pretending to be Henry’s fiancee’. It doesn’t take long for Izzy to discover Henry Stone is a really good guy, a little off, but a good guy none-the-less.What follows is a laugh out loud, edge of your seat, knuckle crunching read that’s loaded with that special Spellman sassiness. The smart-mouthed, in your business, the business of private investigating, has been laid bare for all to enjoy in Curse of the Spellmans. This is one of those books you just can’t seem to find a good place to stop - til you get to the last page. And then you can’t help but wish for more. Lisa Lutz has created an original series, that just keeps getting better and better. With a cast of kooky and oh so lovable characters that are both frustratingly nosy and eternally loyal readers are cheering, sneering and giggling their way through these delicious literary treats. Well written, funny and full of heart - Lisa Lutz has developed a signature series that above all else, entertains!Kudos.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    My little mystery group decided to read Lutz's second title in the Spellman series for 2 reasons: 1. We read the first one in the series The Spellman Files and 2. It was in the bargain section. So we like cheap and familiar. Sue me.That being said, Lisa Lutz is a lunatic with a wild sense of humor and an obsession with footnotes. It was hilarious and mysterious, all at the same time. While I wanted to strangle the youngest Spellman in the first book, I have rather taken a like to the little witch (although I still might choke her a little if I hear "Shotgun!" one more time). The actual mystery (and yes, Virginia, there IS a mystery in this book) competed with several family mysteries... and all were resolved nicely. I enjoyed this book much more than I did the first. I listened to the first one and perhaps this is an author best savored in print rather than audio.I am looking forward to getting into the Spellmans again (I might not even wait for the next one to go to bargain). I recommend this author to fans of Janet Evanovich. Lutz is a very funny lady
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    It's here it's here it's here!!!! Finally. I've been waiting for this sequel for what seems like years. I'm waiting till tonight before I break the seal and delve into Lutz's pleasingly nuerotic family.I read this in 24 hours. Would have been less, but darn real life kept intruding. I say this, because, unless abslutely forced to, this book is one that sucks you in and demands you continue until you're finished. Izzy is arrested 4 times throughout the book. Though 2 and 3 don't count she inists. There are several mysteries to unravel in the book, most I figure out right away, including the "Suspects" story. The fact that I solved the mysteries quickly in no way detracted from Lutz's magic in telling the story, through recorded conversations and reports, to your basic telling of the tale. I am impatiently waiting for the next installment, hoping there will be one. These books are freaking awesome, and I can't get enough of Izzy.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    Needed something quick and light after Grapes of Wrath.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    This was a great listen! Highly recommended.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Curse of the Spellmans is the second book in Lisa Lutz's Spellman series. This series follows the misadventures of Izzy Spellman, an overly suspicious private investigator with a dysfunctional family (most of whom are employed by the family's p.i. firm and love to spy on one another) and a long list of ex-boyfriends. In this installment of the series, Izzy notices that all the members of her family are behaving suspiciously so she begins to keep "Suspicious Behavior Reports" on them as well as her new next door neighbor and potential ex-boyfriend. Izzy practically wears herself out trying to spy on all these different people, and leaves little time and energy for the case that she is actually being paid to investigate - the vandalism of a widow's holiday yard displays which are exact replicas of the vandalisms that occurred when Izzy was a teenager and which she insists that she knows nothing about. Through the course of trying to solve all these mysteries, she gets arrested 2 times (or 4 times, but Izzy doesn't think arrests 2 and 3 should count), loses her rent-controlled apartment, and feels inadequate for never having been in the Olympics.

    The book remains consistent with the writing style that Lutz developed in The Spellman Files, the first book in the series. It is fun and quirky, with plenty of footnotes and even an appendix containing several lists including a list of ex-boyfriends. I still found the footnotes to be a little distracting and annoying, but they did break things up a bit and added some additional interest. And I still love Izzy. She consistently makes bad choices, but they are so funny! I should add, however, that this book continues to see her grow and mature, a process that she began in the first book. I am also very excited about the development of Henry Stone's character. I can't wait to see if he and Izzy ever have a romantic relationship! The book ended with something of a shocker concerning Izzy's status with in the family business - I won't divulge it here, but I have to admit that it has me intrigued enough that I already checked the next book out from the library and plan to start it soon.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    The Good Stuff Another wild and wacky tale of the delightfully dysfunctional, yet totally loveable, Spellman family Would love to take mamma Spellman to some of Jake's parent teachers meeting - she totally rocks Love how Izzy refers to potential dates as Ex-Boyfriend #? Don't really have to read the first book in order to understand the plot, it will help and you will love it, but you won't be totally lost if you don't Gives you a synopsis of the first book without too much repetition for those who have read it already Love the relationships between all of the charcters - especially between Izzy, Rae and Henry The dialogues are hilarious -- FYI you will snort out loud - do not drink while reading - it could get messy The transcripts are a fabulous quirky idea The appendix is a perfect addition Even reading the acknowledgments is fun Looking forward to reading the next installment of the series -- they are totally addictive to readThe Not So Good Stuff Her writing style might throw off some, story jumps around a lot, so you gotta be paying attention Distracts me from getting work done, since I want to keep readingFavorite Quotes/Passages"Background: When my sister was eight years old, my brother, in the interest of explaining his legal career to Rae, taught her how to negotiate. It was a lesson he and the rest of us would soon regret. Rae took from this lesson that everything - from simple acts of grooming to household chores to homework - could be negotiated to her end.""I pinched Rae really hard on her arm, which lately is code for "whatever you're doing, stop doing it." "Rae took the money and headed for the door. In my family, if one loses a negotiation, we like to pretend that we have won."I would have given you thirty," I said"I would have done it for five," Rae replied."Who Should/Shouldn't Read Definitely for those who enjoy reading books about quirky families Hardcore readers of mystery or PI style books might now enjoy Readers who just enjoy something a little different, this is for you If you just need a good laugh -- this will do it Obviously for fans of the first book - but you don't have to read it first5 Dewey'sI received this from Simon and Schuster in Exchange for an Honest Review & I'm bringing you the REALLY good cookies at OLA for introducing me to these books
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    This was a great follow-up to "The Spellman Files". I especially liked that we get to see more of Henry and also a little bit more character development for Izzie. There were a couple of places where the story dragged. (As much as I love Doctor Who, did we really need to have that much time devoted to Izzie and Henry watching it?) But the "mystery" was interesting and of course, the familiy interactions were great. Can't wait for book 3!
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    I love the Spellman books! These books are absolutely hilarious. The Spellman family returns in Lutz's newest Spellman novel. Isabel is endlessly intrigued by her parents' new neighbor, while Rae nearly stalks Henry Stone. Izabel fins herself being arrested numerous times throughout the novel under incredibly hilarious circumstances and her perfect brother, David is acting really funny lately....
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Lisa Lutz writes another fantastically fun novel filled with the fabulous Spellman family. All the family members are back and up to their old investigating tricks in this sequel to The Spellman Files. The plot was fast paced but didn't pack the emotional punch that first book had. I did enjoy the larger role of Henry Stone as Rae's best friend and (possibly?) Izzy's new love interest. Actually, my favorite parts of the novel were Henry, Rae, and Izzy hanging out together because the dialogue between them was hysterical. Overall, a great addition to the Spellman series and I can't wait to read #3.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Two words: Henry Stone (I love him!) and can't wait to read more of his relationships with the Spellman clan.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    In the second novel in The Spellman Series, the reader returns to the comical adventures of Izzy Spellman, PI. When a handsome but mysterious young man moves into next door to her parent's investigation business (and occasionally Izzy's home), Izzy becomes obsessed in her endeavor to discover John Brown's past. She is driven to succeed, if she only her investigations would not be interrupted by her periodic arrests. The series is an addictive read precipitating laugh-at-loud moments, especially during family interactions.
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    Not funny.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    Sequel to The Spellman Files. Izzy and her dysfunctional family return for another set of humorous investigations. Izzy is obsessed with the mysterious new next-door neighbor. Rae is now a teenager and shows an occasional sign of normality, although her attachment to adult policeman Henry Stone illustrates all the things she's not getting from her parents. The story lines are negligible and serve only to give the characters space in which to be eccentric. The humor doesn't quite work for me; I didn't have any trouble finishing the book, but it will soon return to the library garage for their next book sale.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Even better than the first one! Usually, a sequel to a unique book is never quite as good but Lutz manages to take all the great stuff from the first (wacky situations, wonderful characters, hilarious dialogue) and add a little depth to the main character as well. This series is funnier (and infinitely more clever) than the Evanovich series.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    HILARIOUS! Izzy, Rae and the entire Spellman family (including Henry Stone) make me giggle. The way this book ends it seems a third story will follow! It would be a shame if one didn't because if you are in a bad mood read these books and you'll start to grin!
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    Not as rip roaring as the first in the series, but still a good comic novel. I was so blown away by the first one that it would be very difficult not to be disappointed by the second, no matter how good. A fun read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    This is a very good series, especially to listen to. Christina Moore is the perfect narrator for each of the voices, each and every dysfunctional character. Izzy is on a mission to find out what exactly her new neighbor is up to. She just knows in her gut that he is evil. She continues to surveill him even though each time out leads to her arrest one way or another. She's about to lose her license to be a PI if she doesn't stop. Izzy is engaged to her cop friend, much to both their dismay. It's to help out a family member. There's so much more going on, the story is told in backwards and forward time that took me some time to get used to, but it made sense as Izzy tells her tale like a normal person would...or at least how I would. You start to tell the story of something that happened and you remember that you should maybe start a little farther back to make the listener understand what led up to the current tale. You don't exactly start over, but you go back a little bit in time to complete the tale.The story made me laugh and enjoy my time with this crazy family. Five dysfunctional is fun beans....
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    3 1/2 stars for this one.Curse of the Spellmans is the sequel to The Spellman Files, a novel about an unconventional family that runs a private investigation firm. I really enjoyed The Spellman Files--it's light, amusing, and there is an inventive quality to the narrator, Izzy Spellman's, manner of conveying her story. Because of her training as a P.I., Izzy tells us everything in the form of case file reports and transcripts of secret recordings. What worked for the first novel lost some of its quirky charm for me in the second novel simply because I expected it. However, that is not to say that I didn't enjoy Curse of the Spellmans, because I certainly did.Izzy Spellman is now 30 years old and has spent half of her life working for her parents' private investigation firm. Because she was exposed to this lifestyle in her impressionable years, Izzy is pathologically suspicious of everyone and everything, and she lacks the ability to compartmentalize her work life and her personal life. With skills like surveillance, lock picking, on-the-spot lying, GPS tracking, and performing routine background checks, woe upon you if Izzy thinks you're hiding something from her. As one might expect, this wrecks any chance Izzy has for a normal romantic relationship. Izzy fast-forwards through the whole "getting to know you" stage of a blossoming romance in favor of gaining DOB and SSN to rummage around in the prospective romantic interest's background. This usually leads to some serious trust issues on the part of the men who fall for Izzy and, as a result, Izzy is still single. And it's just this pattern of thinking that leads her to believe that her next-door-neighbor-and-potential-future-boyfriend is hiding a criminal past behind his suspiciously average name and an even more suspiciously locked door in his home. In addition to this mystery, Izzy's family members seem to have secrets of their own and Izzy, a complete stranger to the concept of personal privacy, begins to ferret out why her brother's wife seems to have disappeared, why her mother runs suspicious errands at 2:30 a.m., why her father is rapidly losing weight, and why her loner sister suddenly has friends no one in the family has ever met.If this sounds like another light, chick-lit screwball comedy, it is. The novels don't focus on the serious investigations of the Spellman Agency and instead focus on what happens in a family trying to keep secrets and boundaries when their bread-and-butter is to cross boundaries as a routine part of discovering the secrets of others. The mysteries really don't matter. They're simply vehicles for getting to know this bizarre and dysfunctional and frequently amusing family.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Very funny follow-up to the Spellman Files. Izzy has been arrested four times and is consulting with her aged attorney Morty on her case, which prompts her to relate recent events in the Spellman family. If you want something lighthearted and funny, check out the Spellman family.
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    I had some hopes after reading the first book that Lutz would stop forcing her characters to be so hopelessly quirky (solely for the sake of "humor") and concentrate on the plot, but this one is even worse. And, Izzy now makes cutesy comments on her own dialogue(!). And the wildest thing she does is go out the window and down the fire escape rather than through the house and out the door and all the other characters just think she's so outrageous and craaazy. Tedious!
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Izzy is on a roll again! Does she never stop? Probably can't, given that her family upbringing included filing Suspicious Person Reports on anyone who acts suspicious, including your own family members, surveillance techniques, lock picking, eves dropping and how to run background checks. When the family business is private investigating these things are only normal.

    This time Izzy really has her hands full trying to find out what her new neighbour is being so secretive about, why is her dad suddenly eating healthy and doing yoga, why does her mom sneak out in the pre-dawn hours, and finding new digs. Cramping these activities is her unplanned arrests and court appearances. Did I mention that she also has the case of solving who has been recreating her high school vandalism against Mrs. Chandler's holiday lawn tableaux?

    All this unfolds during her lunch meetings with Morty, her octogenarian lawyer, he has all the pertinent facts.

    Another zany ride on the Spellman Express!
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Book two in Lisa Lutz's series about Izzy Spellman, PI, and her quirky, manipulative PI family. This time out, Izzy obsesses over her family's attractive but suspicious new next-door neighbor, poses as the fiancee of her teenage sister's middle-aged cop friend so people won't find their association creepy (which, it's really not), takes note of strange changes in her friends' and family's behavior patterns, and gets up to various kinds of nuttiness.I thought the first book was moderately entertaining, in a breezy, fluffy sort of way, but its sense of humor didn't entirely click with me, for some reason. I don't know if I was just more in the mood for it this time, or what, but I enjoyed this one much more thoroughly. It kept me smiling all the way through, and I was genuinely interested in the characters' relationships and the question of what the suspicious neighbor was actually up to (even if the answer wasn't really all that surprising). I'll definitely be continuing on with this series.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    I loved the first book of the Spellman series so I knew that I had to read this one. I didn't know it was possible but this book made me fall in love even more with the Spellman family. I loved every character in this book, but especially Henry Stone. I loved his friendship with Rae, and his friendship with Isabel. I can't wait to see where the friendship between Henry and Isabel goes.I loved this book even more than the first in the series and would recommend this book and the series to everyone.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Comic mystery (far superior to Evanovich's numbers series, IMHO) centering on a dysfunctional family of PIs (although mostly on the eldest daughter, Izzy) and their cases & adventures. Fast, quirky, and solid storyline.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I just love this series and wonder what other trouble Isabel can get into. The whole family is too funny and so dysfunctional, but you know they all love each other. I am about to start the 3rd installment and have heard it is funnier then the rest
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    This is the second book in the Spellman series. While I enjoy the series and the mysteries, I'm getting a little weary of the constant footnotes and bouncing around in time. It was very funny the first time, wearing a little thin this time. I'll try the next in the series and see if it still annoys me but this might be my last Lutz for a while.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Lisa Lutz made me laugh out loud again. You know that Izzy is misguided and way out of line. You know she's crossing boundries that she shouldn't, but you still root for her. Getting her act together would "spell" the end of the fun.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I *really* enjoy this series - the quirkiness of the family has grown on me. And Christina Moore's narration of the books really brings the characters to life.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    A family of private investigators who get themselves involved in wacky cases. The 20 something Izzy Spellman is the focus of the books, and she works for the family business. She seems a less amusing version of Stephanie Plum.The first book, The Spellman Files was clever and funny. This second one is okay but a little heavy handed and the footnotes (yes! foonotes) are positively annoying.

Book preview

Curse of the Spellmans - Lisa Lutz

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,1 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 Spellman2 is on the case hilarious high-jinks are never far behind.

1 Joseph Cotton.

2 Or Izzy Ellmanspay—depending upon which business card she’s using.


Friday, April 21

1900 hrs


Hi, Mom.

Who is this?

Isabel, and don’t ask me again.


Mom, it’s really not funny when you do it.

Seriously, who is this?

I don’t have time for your games right now.

Neither do I, said Mom, finally dropping the amnesia act. I’ll call you in a few days.

Don’t hang up!!! I shouted into the receiver.

Isabel, calm down.

Just don’t hang up.

Why not?

Because . . . I only get one phone call.

ARREST #2 (OR #4)1

That statement was, in fact, untrue. I used it purely for dramatic effect. According to the California Penal Code, Section 851.5, California grants arrestees the right to three telephone calls to the following individuals: 1.) an attorney, 2.) a bail bondsman, and 3.) a relative or other person. The code isn’t clear on whether the three calls must be made to each of the above or if you can double or triple up on any one.

Regardless, my mother was not my first choice. Before Mom, I tried my brother, David (no answer), and Mort Schilling, an old2 friend of mine who used to be a defense attorney. As of this arrest, I had not yet acquired the services of a regular bail bondsman. After searching through my internal Rolodex and running the list by my new friends, Scarlet and Lacey (also in lockup but for different offenses), they both agreed that I should call my mother.

If your own mother won’t bail you out of jail, who will? Lacey asked.

Her reasoning was sound, but I called my mom because I thought she owed me after arrest #1.5 (or #3, depending on how you’re counting). The rest of the conversation went like this:

MOM: Not again, Isabel. Please explain this to me.

ME: I’ll explain as soon as you pick me up.

MOM: We’re already on the road, dear. I’m not canceling our disappearance3 to bail you out of jail.

ME: Oh, I forgot about the disappearance.

MOM: You’re on your own, sweetie.

ME: No, Mom! You’ve got to call someone to get me out of here. I don’t want to spend the night in this place.

MOM: That might be a good idea. Remember Scared Straight!?

ME: Of course I remember it. You made me watch it at least ten times in high school.

MOM: A lot of good it did.

ME: Listen, call Morty again. Call until he picks up the phone. He’s home. He just can’t hear it.

MOM: I don’t think he should be driving at night.

ME: Mom, please.

MOM: Or during the day, for that matter.

OFFICER LINDLEY: Spellman, can you hurry this up?

ME: I gotta go. Just make sure someone gets me out of here.

MOM: I’ll do my best. See you on Monday, Isabel.

ME: Have a nice disappearance.

Three hours later, Officer Lindley banged his nightstick on the cage and said, Spellman, you’re out. After retrieving my personal effects from the clerk, I was led into the waiting room, which I scanned for a familiar face.

Morty was slumped over, asleep, in one of the green vinyl chairs. His wild, thinning hair drooped over his square Coke-bottle glasses. There was a crumpled lunch bag on his lap. His snoring alternated between kitchen blender and energy-efficient dishwasher.

Wake up, Morty, I said, gently shaking his shoulder.

Morty woke with a start, then turned to me and smiled. How’s my favorite delinquent? he asked.

I’ve been better, I replied.

What’s this, arrest number four?

Do you think it’s fair to count two and three?

We don’t have to count them if you don’t want. I thought you might be hungry, so I brought you a sandwich, Morty said, and then handed me the abused paper bag. It’s your favorite. Pastrami on rye.

No, Morty, it’s your favorite, which would account for why there’s only half a sandwich left.

I had to wait over an hour, Morty said in his own defense.

I put my arm around my pint-sized octogenarian friend and kissed him on the cheek. I knew you wouldn’t let me rot in there.

Let’s talk business for a minute, Morty said.

Shoot, I said, knowing it wouldn’t be good news.

"Your arraignment is on Monday. I don’t think I can get this charge dropped. Four arrests in under two months. They’re getting tired of seeing your mug around here. You violated a TRO.4 Izzele,5 what were you thinking?"

Arrests two and three don’t count, Morty. As for the other two, I think we can defend against those charges, although I need more evidence.

Gathering evidence is what got you in trouble in the first place. You got to stop that. Besides, your mother wanted me to tell you that you’re grounded.

I’m thirty years old. She can’t ground me.

She can fire you, Morty replied. And then what are you going to do?

Morty had a point. But I was convinced that once I solved my primary mystery, all my troubles would vanish. But first, I had to stay out of jail, which meant staging a defense.

*  *  *

At 9:00 A.M. the following Monday morning I was arraigned in Courtroom Four of the San Francisco criminal court building. Morty predicted correctly: these charges would not be dropped. My preliminary hearing was set for the following Monday, which gave Morty and me a full week to stage my defense. We returned to Morty’s office later that morning to go over the details of my case.

1 Depends on whether you count #2 and #3—I don’t.

Old refers to the age of the friend, not the length of our friendship.

Disappearance means vacation in the Spellman household. I will explain the origin of this later.

4 Temporary restraining order.

5 Morty likes to Yiddishify my name.


Monday, April 24

1000 hrs

Morty punched holes in my arrest sheet and secured it in his brand-new file on Isabel Spellman, or Spellman, Isabel (case #21). Me.

We should be able to keep the second and third arrests out of any court hearing. I can argue that they’re not related.




"During our lunches2 you’ve told me bits and pieces about this case, but I need the whole picture to figure out the best way to paint your story in court."

Do you really think this is going to court?

What? Speak up.

Do you think this will go to—Morty, put in your hearing aid.

Morty reached into his desk drawer, stuck in his hearing aid, and adjusted the volume.

This thing drives me crazy. What were you saying?

Do you think this will even go to court? I mean, we can explain the evidence to the district attorney and maybe they’ll finally investigate this guy.

Isabel, first things first. Let’s get your story down and then we’ll figure out how to deal with the DA. Right now I want you to tell me the whole story, and don’t leave anything out. I like the details and I’ve got all day. And I’ve got tomorrow and the next day, God willing.

But I’ve already figured out my defense.

Enlighten me, Morty replied.

I’m innocent, I said.

But you acknowledge you violated a TRO?

I acknowledge that.

Then how can you be innocent?

Because the person who filed the restraining order is not who he says he is. Therefore the TRO is invalid.

Why don’t we start at the beginning, Isabel.

1 Notice the case number. The only other case Morty had this year was his nephew’s traffic violation.

2 Morty and I have a standing lunch date every week. I will explain how we met and the nature of our relationship in due time.

Part I



Sunday, January 8

1100 hrs

I have trouble with beginnings. For one thing, I don’t find stories all that interesting when you start at the beginning. If you ask me, you only know there is a story when you get to the middle. And besides, beginnings are hard to determine. One could argue that the true beginning to all stories is the beginning of time. But Morty is already eighty-two years old, so given our time constraints, I’ll begin this story on the date I met, or, more specifically, first laid eyes on John Brown (hereafter referred to as Subject or by some variation of his alias, John Brown).

I remember the day that Subject moved in next door to my parents like it was yesterday. He was taking over the second-story apartment of a triplex, previously occupied by Mr. Rafter, whose tenancy lasted close to thirty years. David knew Mr. Rafter better than I since his bedroom was six feet from Rafter’s den and their windows were level enough to provide each a fishbowl view of the other. Since Rafter spent most of his time watching television in his den and David spent most of his time studying in his bedroom, the two men got to know each other in their respective comfortable silences (minus the sounds of the television, that is).

But I digress. As I said, I remember the day Subject moved in next door like it was yesterday. And I suppose the reason I remember it so vividly is because of the events that transpired earlier that day, the events that caused me to be at my family’s home at the precise moment Subject’s moving truck double-parked out front. So, I’m thinking I should probably start earlier that day and mention the aforementioned events.

0900 hrs

I woke in my bed, or, more precisely, the bed in the home of Bernie Peterson, a retired SFPD lieutenant whom I sublet from. My illegal residence in the Richmond district is exactly 2.8 miles and one giant hill away from my parents’ home, but I’m always just a phone call away.

The phone rang, like it always does, before I’d had enough coffee to face the day.


Isabel, it’s Mom.


I’m not in the mood for this today.

Not ringing a bell. When did we meet?

Listen to me very carefully; I don’t want to repeat myself. I need you to pick up Rae from the hospital.

Is she all right? I asked, concern altering the tone of my voice.1

"She’s fine. But Henry2 isn’t."

What happened?

She ran him over.


With a car, Isabel.

I got that part, Mom.

Izzy, I’m in the middle of a job. I have to go. Please get all the details of what went down. As usual, record everything. Call me when you get home.

San Francisco General Hospital

1000 hrs

The woman at the reception desk told me that only immediate family would be allowed in Henry’s room. I flashed my quarter-carat engagement ring and asked if fiancées qualified.

A nurse directed me toward room 873 and explained that he was in serious, but stable, condition.

Can you tell me what happened? I asked the nurse.

Your daughter is with him now. I’ll let her explain.

My daughter?

I found my sister, Rae, sitting by Inspector Henry Stone’s bedside, staring at the electronic device monitoring his vitals.

Henry’s nurse tried to smile over her annoyance at Rae’s hypervigilant announcements.

Seventy-two. His heart rate went up by five beats, Rae said as I entered.

My sister’s eyes were bloodshot and her flushed cheeks showed signs of recent crying. The nurse looked relieved when she saw me and said to Rae, Oh, good. Your mother’s here.

Eew, I said, offended. I’m not her mother. Do I look old enough to be the mother of a fifteen-year-old girl?

I hadn’t thought about it, she replied.

I’m his fiancée, I clarified to the nurse, and then turned to the inspector.

Henry Stone was lying in the hospital bed with an assortment of tubes and monitors attached to his body, wearing the standard-issue hospital gown. Minus the unfortunate outfit and the single gauze bandage stuck to his left temple, he looked pretty much the same as he always does: well groomed, slightly underweight, and handsome in a way that’s very easy to ignore. His usually short-cropped salt-and-pepper hair had grown out more in the past few weeks, which had the added benefit of making him appear younger than his forty-four years. Although at that moment the dark circles under his eyes and his patently agitated expression had offset that benefit.

How is he? I asked the nurse, trying to emote the appropriate shade of concern.

There’s some bruising on the legs just below the knee, but nothing’s broken. The main concern is the concussion. He lost consciousness for five minutes and is experiencing nausea. We did a CT and everything looks fine, but we need to keep him under observation for forty-eight hours.

Will he have permanent brain damage? Rae asked.

Henry grabbed my wrist. Hard. I need to speak to you in private, he said.

I turned to Rae. Leave the room.

No, she replied. I never thought a single syllable could possess such heartbreaking desperation.

Get out, Henry demanded, unmoved by her wells of emotion.

Are you ever going to forgive me? she said to him.

It’s only been two hours since you ran me over, he replied.

Accidentally! she shouted.

Then Henry shot her a look that seemed to have more power than any lecture, punishment, or curfew my parents ever unleashed on Rae.

Two and a half hours, Rae mumbled as she soberly exited the room.

Henry gripped my arm even tighter after Rae was out of earshot.

That kind of hurts, Henry.

Don’t talk to me about pain.

Right. Sorry.

I need you to do me a favor.


Keep her away from me.

For how long?

A couple weeks.

Dream on.

Isabel, please. I need a break.

I’ll do what I can, but—

Your sister almost killed me today—

Accidentally! shouted Rae from the other side of the door.

"I need a Rae vacation.3 Please. Help me."

1 In case you’re wondering, I know when to give up the shtick.

2 Inspector Henry Stone. I’ll explain all about him later.

3 In this instance, the word vacation is being used in its traditional sense.


Monday, April 24

1015 hrs

When did you and Inspector Stone get engaged?

We’re not engaged. We’re ‘engaged’, I said, using finger quotes.1

You’re not wearing an engagement ring.

I don’t need to wear it anymore.

Run that by me again.

It’s a really long story. Are you sure you want to hear it?

I want to hear any story that will help explain the evidence that has been amassed against you.

That might take a while.

Morty shrugged his shoulders. Retirement hadn’t been his cup of tea. Anything that kept him busy was.

Like I said, beginnings are impossible to define. For my story and my defense to make complete sense, I need to provide details from long before my troubles with John Brown began.

1 Generally I’m opposed to the use of finger quotes. There are rare exceptions.


I am the second child of Albert and Olivia Spellman. Since the age of twelve I have worked for the family business, Spellman Investigations, a private investigative firm located inside the Spellman family residence in San Francisco, California. My brother, David, is two years my senior and my sister, Rae, fourteen-plus years my junior.

I was, unequivocally, the difficult child (and adolescent and young adult). My reign of terror over the Spellman household lasted almost twenty years. I have often theorized that my bad seed MO arose out of having a sibling (David) whose perfection, both physical and intellectual, could not be matched. Because I could not compete with my brother, I responded by slumming in imperfection, leaving a wake of vandalism and truancy everywhere I went. David often tried to temper my exploits by sweeping whatever he could under the rug, but eventually even he grew tired of compensating for me. Now David is a lawyer married to my best friend, Petra.1 His primary connection to the family business is throwing work our way.

My sister, Rae, age fifteen (and a half), barely looks a day over thirteen. She inherited her small frame from our mother, but the dirty-blonde hair and freckles mimic no one else in the family. My sister’s grand loyalty to the family, and especially the family business, has set her apart from me and David. Rae began working for Spellman Investigations when she was six years old and seemed to believe that she led the perfect life. For her, maybe it was true; it appeared that she was born into precisely the right family.

In my mid-twenties, I eventually came to realize that my behavior was the formative example to an impressionable pre-teen; because of this and a few other mitigating factors, I grew up. My transformation was quick. To the untrained eye it would appear that I fell asleep a delinquent and woke up a somewhat responsible member of society.

It was then that my family experienced its longest spate of normalcy, which lasted approximately four years. Then two years ago, after my Uncle Ray2 moved into the Spellman home, battles began to simmer between me, my parents, my sister, my uncle Ray, and my brother. And then we went to war.

The war began when I started dating a dentist behind my mother’s back. My mother hates dentists, you see. Or she did, back when the wounds were fresh from her undercover work in a sexual assault case involving a dentist who felt up his patients while they were under anesthesia. I still say Mom and Dad fired the first shots. They hired my sister Rae (fourteen at the time) to follow me. That’s how they discovered I was dating Daniel Castillo, DDS (Ex-boyfriend #9—see appendix). After a humiliating meeting between Ex #9 and my family, I decided that I had to get out of the family business.

That is when our war escalated. My parents commenced twenty-four-hour surveillance on me (using my sister as their primary operative), and just when we thought this game of cat and mouse couldn’t get any worse, my sister disappeared.

It was later discovered that Rae kidnapped herself in a preemptive strike to end the war. And she got exactly what she wanted: the war ended and my family returned to its previous state of normalcy. Although my sister’s dramatic play did not go unpunished.

It was during Rae’s six-month probation that she began visiting Henry Stone—the primary officer on her own missing person case. What began as weekly visits to the oddly well-groomed, highly ethical inspector in the San Francisco Police Department’s Bryant Street headquarters would end eighteen months later when my sister almost murdered him with his own car.

1 Who happened to be my partner in crime during most of my delinquent years.

2 I’ll get to him in five pages or so.


Sunday, January 8

1005 hrs

My mother would have murdered me if she knew how long I had been in the hospital room without turning on the tape recorder.1 Before another word was uttered, I slipped my hand into my pocket and switched on my palm-sized digital recorder.

The transcript reads as follows:

[Rae reenters the room as Nurse Stinson finishes filling out Inspector Stone’s medical chart. The nurse smiles professionally and goes to the door.]

NURSE: If you need anything, Inspector, please use the call button. [She turns to me and Rae.]

NURSE: Ladies, visiting hours will be over in two hours.

HENRY: I’m very tired. I think they should leave now.

ISABEL: We’ll leave in a few minutes.

HENRY: No. Leave now. Please. Nurse?

RAE: His pulse just went up by two beats. Now it’s seventy-four.

NURSE: He’s fine. I’ll check on you in an hour.

[Nurse Stinson exits the room.]

ISABEL: Henry, we’ll be out of here in a minute. But Mom wants a complete rundown of the events, which means she needs to hear it from you. Oh, and I’m recording this. Tell me exactly what happened.

HENRY: Your sister ran me over—

RAE: Accidentally!

ISABEL: The accidentally is implied, Rae. What I’d like to know is how. You have a learner’s permit, not a license. You’re not supposed to be in the driver’s seat of a car without a licensed driver with you at all times. If you ran Henry over, clearly he was outside of the car.

HENRY: Please keep it down. My head hurts.

ISABEL: Sorry. [to Rae] Talk.

RAE: We were leaving the police station for my driving lesson.

HENRY: I hope you enjoyed it, because that was the last driving lesson I will ever give you.

RAE: I think that’s the head injury talking.

HENRY: Mark my words.

ISABEL: Can we get on with the story?

RAE: Henry was carrying a box and then he stopped to talk to that guy who smells like fish.

HENRY: Captain Greely.

ISABEL: Why does he smell like fish?

RAE: I have no idea.

ISABEL: So he just smells like fish all the time?

RAE: Every time I’ve smelled him he’s smelled like fish.

HENRY: [snappishly] He takes fish oil supplements for his heart. Can we get on with this?

ISABEL: Right. Okay, then what happened?

RAE: I ran ahead to the car, got in the driver’s seat, and waited for Henry.

But he was still holding the box and talking to the fish guy.

HENRY: Captain Greely.

RAE: [snotty] Captain Greely.

HENRY: Young lady, on the day you run me over—

RAE: Accidentally!

HENRY: —you don’t get to talk to me like that.

RAE: I think you need to calm down. Your heart rate is up to eighty beats per minute.

HENRY: Isabel, I want you to get her out of here.

ISABEL: In a minute. I promise. Can I please hear the end of the story? Rae, hurry up and talk.

RAE: So he had this heavy box and he was talking to the—Captain Greely, and I just thought if I drove the car twenty feet that wouldn’t be a big deal and he wouldn’t have to carry the box to the car. I was trying to be nice. So I turned on the engine and started to drive and then I saw Henry and he looked so mad and he stepped out in front of the car and shouted for me to stop and I got scared and I meant to hit the brakes, but I hit the gas. [Tears of guilt have formed in Rae’s eyes.]

ISABEL: Are you crying?

RAE: I almost accidentally murdered my best friend today.

HENRY AND ISABEL: Stop saying that!

Although Morty had not interrupted my story for further exposition on the bizarre relationship between my fifteen-and-a-half-year-old sister and the forty-four-year-old inspector, I think further background information will help illuminate this moment in the hospital room and many of the events that will follow.

1 Will explain the chronic tape-recording later.


Remember the wars I mentioned earlier? They were not exclusive to me and my parents. My sister, Rae, was a party in her own conflict against Uncle Ray. Uncle Ray was my father’s older brother. Almost seventeen years ago, within the span of six months, he got cancer, his wife left him, he almost died, and then he recovered. The once clean-living/responsible/much-admired police inspector uncle then became a slovenly shadow of his former well-scrubbed self. New Uncle Ray would often disappear on benders that my family dubbed Lost Weekends. Every time he disappeared, we would retrieve him, pay off his gambling debts, sober him up enough to maintain civilized grooming standards, and keep as watchful an eye on him as we could until the next Lost Weekend.

My sister’s age and high work ethic made her initial relationship with her namesake hostile at best, but eventually, when Rae realized that her uncle was not a selfish old fool but a lonely man who got dealt a hand of cards that he didn’t know how to play, she softened her opinion of him and they eventually made peace.

However, as soon as my sister had grown accustomed to her regular television-watching/sugar-consuming/card-playing companion, Uncle Ray passed out in a bathtub in a casino hotel in Reno, Nevada, after a long day of poker losses and binge drinking.

My sister took Uncle Ray’s death harder than anyone, and soon her bimonthly visits to Henry Stone

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