The Last Word by Lisa Lutz

The Last Word
The Last Word by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the constant battles in The Spellman Files has been Izzy’s struggle with maturity and responsibility — there are people who just don’t grow up, who are locked into an eternal childhood. And then there are people like Izzy who have waged war on their impending adulthood. Her struggles are at times as trying to the reader as they are for those closest to her — friends/family/boyfriends — but primarily they amuse us (this is due to the skill of the Lutz more than Izzy’s inherent charm). Trail of the Spellmans ended with Izzy taking some determined steps towards maturity, however reluctantly, and The Last Word starts off showing how poorly that’s going.

Oddly enough, given her determined adolescence, I’ve always liked Izzy most when she’s interacting with the elderly (other than her grandmother — but I don’t know who could be likable while dealing with her). Early on, it was Mort Schilling — who I’ve missed, and now we get Edward Slayter and Charlie. While they serve similar roles in the narratives (a mature advisory/near-parental voice that Izzy sort-of listens to), Mr. Slayter and Charlie aren’t anywhere as amusing as Mort was.

These are ostensibly mystery novels, and there are a handful this time ’round. More than one of which focuses on Mr. Slayter (keeping this vague for spoiler reasons), so we see Izzy at her strongest. There’s some mysterious antics involving Rae, of course — and I’ve found these stories to be harder to enjoy lately, even more than Izzy’s Pernella Pan syndrome. And the requisite mystery about what Albert and Olivia are up to — once this moves beyond them repaying Izzy for being such a lousy and defiant employee/daughter for yeas, this becomes the emotional core of the book and is probably the best use of these characters in the series. The other cases are entertaining enough, and definitely provide a good balance to the more emotionally charged and serious plot lines.

Maybe it’s just me, but I sound negative about this book so far. And I don’t mean to! As always, it’s a pleasure to spend time with these characters and in this world. Izzy’s TV taste remains impeccable. And Lutz’s breezy style can carry even the most problematic characters and stories in a way that seems effortless (and is undoubtedly very difficult to do successfully). The character development here is a natural — and needed — progression from Trail, even if it means this isn’t the laughter-filled read the first few were. I wasn’t entirely thrilled with where this book left the family and business, but I understand (and would defend) the choices Lutz made — and I’m sure in a few weeks, I’ll only look back on this novel positively. But right now, my reaction to the last couple of chapters are coloring my mood.

Still, highly recommended — throughout the reading of this, I had fantasies of taking a few days off work to do nothing but re-read this series back-to-back, and that still sounds like a great way to spend some downtime.

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