Tag Archives: book

The Spellmans’ Satisfying REVENGE

spellmansThe Spellmans are back in Lisa Lutz‘s Revenge of the Spellmans, the third in her series about the lovably dysfunctional family of private eyes. The story begins with Izzy, the 31-year-old underachieving middle child, attending court-ordered therapy due to her escapades in her last adventure and bartending at her favorite watering hole while trying to figure out if she wants to continue in the family business. She accepts a seemingly innocuous job of surveillance for a friend of a friend but of course the case turns out to be more complicated than she thought. Soon, Izzy’s caught up in the (un)usual shenanigans we’ve come to expect from this entertaining series.

Lutz keeps everyone from spinning into Caricatureland by infusing her quirky characters with real emotions. Izzy’s 84-year-old lawyer Morty wears grungy Coke-bottle glasses and is a menace behind the wheel but he sees clearly how Izzy really feels about her cop friend Henry Stone. Her brother David may ridicule her for her aimlessness in life but will extend a hand—and a cup of coffee—when Izzy needs it most. And Izzy herself is not a dimwit—she’s very competent at her job  and lies to people sometimes because she just can’t bring herself to spoil their happiness.

I think what I like most about these characters is that they evolve (unlike, cough, Stephanie Plum). Lutz puts several of them through some big life changes in this book, positioning them nicely for future installments. Don’t be left clueless—check out this case (and the previous ones) and follow the Spellmans on their grand adventures.

Nerd Verdict: Revenge is winning




Congratulations to Viktoria of North Hollywood, CA, who won the black tour T-shirt and tomato seeds from the Angel Corporation! Viktoria sent along these pictures of her wearing the shirt and, um, the ketchup she made from the homegrown tomatoes. 😉

The contest question was “If you had a splat gun, what would you fill it with and why?” Viktoria’s response was: “I would fill my splat gun with either a forget charm or truth serum depending upon which I need more at the time.”

Viktoria was randomly selected from all subscribers who submitted answers. Thank you to everyone who participated and keep your eyes peeled for future giveaways!

THE REAPER Kicks Butt!

beat_reaperMan, oh man, I just finished this book by Josh Bazell called Beat the Reaper and it was so good, I started writing this review before the book’s back cover had slapped shut. That’s how fast I wanted to spread the word. Bazell is a first-time novelist but you wouldn’t know it from his assured control of pace, plot and dialogue in this hilarious and outrageous mafia comedy thriller. 

The novel starts out with our protagonist, Dr. Peter Brown, getting mugged while watching a rat fight a pigeon in the snow on his way to work at Manhattan Catholic Hospital. Turns out Dr. Brown’s a lot like the rat and knows a thing or two about fighting himself.

Brown is really Pietro Brnwa aka Bearclaw, a former mob assassin who turned state’s evidence then went into witness protection and medicine to atone for his killings. Not that he’s suddenly turned into a Boy Scout. He calls a patient with rectal pain “Assman” and agrees to lick a pretty patient’s leg before she’s wheeled to surgery to get it amputated. He also eats Moxfane like potato chips (“Moxfane is the drug they give to bomber pilots who need to take off from Michigan, bomb Iraq, then fly back to Michigan without stopping. You can swallow it or use it to run the engine.”). 

Of course, like the pigeon fighting the rat, people from his past just won’t stay down and keep coming back for more, no matter how bloody the result (very, in case you’re wondering). Bazell, who’s a real doctor in San Francisco, switches back and forth between the present and the past to fill us in—even exposition unfolds at heart-thumping speed—on how Brnwa got sucked into the mob in the first place and how it all went wrong. The action leads to a climactic confrontation in which Brnwa uses an insane, improvised lethal weapon that I’m pretty sure has never been used in crime fiction.

Bazell’s voice is fresh and scalpel-sharp, his prose vivid and cinematic. As Brnwa enters a pitch-black room, the author writes: “I recognized the sound of her instantly. The adrenaline jacked my pupil size…An impulse hit me. Kill. All around the room, knees, eyes, and throats lit up like targets in a shooting gallery.” Bazell definitely hit the bull’s eye with his debut so it’s no surprise to hear Leonardo DiCaprio has already snapped up movie rights. Other good news? Bazell promises Brnwa will be back in a sequel.

Nerd Verdict: Hard to beat this brilliant combination of thrills, humor and action


girl-wOver the holidays, I stumbled upon a book called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in my brother-in-law’s library. After gobbling it down in a few days (if eyeballs can swallow, that is), I was glad I read it on break when I didn’t have much to do. As it was, I was angry at myself every time I had to stop to eat, bathe or sleep.

At first, Stieg Larsson’s novel seems like two stories in one book—a financial journalist hired to investigate a 40-year-old mystery surrounding the disappearance of a teenaged girl from an island (very “Ten Little Indians”-ish), and a waif with possible Asperger’s Syndrome who works part-time at a security firm while trying to get out from under an abusive legal guardian. These two plotlines eventually converge when the titular girl gets hired by the journalist to help him with his investigation, which starts out as just a front for him to get back at a greedy and powerful businessman who put him in jail, but turns out to be a very dangerous task which puts the journalist’s life at risk.

If all that sounds confusing, don’t worry. Larsson explains everything to you in 465 pages and even includes a helpful chart of the missing teenager’s family (relatives who were on the island the day she disappeared are suspects). There’s a lot of story to tell, a lot of themes and characters to juggle but Larsson does it masterfully. He makes it clear how he feels about misogynists, sadists, cowards, and corrupt bastards. The book is smart, unflinching, twisty in its mystery and—the most obvious sign it’s a notable tale—haunting. Lisbeth Salander, the girl with said tattoo, is a singular creation. She’s difficult, brilliant, aloof, tough, scary and I can’t stop thinking about her long after I finished the book.

It’s a good thing I’ll get to see more of her since Tattoo is only the first book in Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. Luckily, he turned in all three manuscripts to his publisher at the same time so the wait between books won’t be long (the second installment, The Girl Who Played with Fire, will be available in the U.S. this July and is already out in the UK). Tragically, Larsson died of a heart attack before the first book could be published and become an international bestseller (the books were translated from Swedish to English by “Reg Keeland,” a pseudonym of Steven T. Murray). Larsson the man may be gone but his compelling, searing voice resonates in the work he left behind.

Rating: Brilliant