Title: IQ by Joe Ide
Publisher: Mullholland Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 337 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A resident of one of LA’s toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores.
East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood’s high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can’t or won’t touch.
They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he’s forced to take on clients that can pay.
This time, it’s a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.
With IQ, debut mystery author Joe Ide breathes fresh life into the all too familiar private detective trope with both the lead character, Isaiah “IQ” Quintabe and the gritty setting. Throw in an intriguing storyline, an interesting sidekick and a complicated yet fascinating backstory and you have the perfect ingredients for a riveting novel that will leave readers hoping for future books starring IQ.
Isaiah is a high school dropout with a near genius IQ whose work as an unlicensed word of mouth PI garners him plenty of work but not a whole of cash. When his old high school roommate and ex-partner in crime Juanell Dodson calls him with a job opportunity, he has no intention of taking the case. But with his funds dwindling at an alarming rate, he is forced to reconsider and thus begins his investigation into who has taken a hit out on rap superstar Calvin “Black the Knife” Wright. Which person in Cal’s life is responsible for hiring a hit man who unleashed a lethal attack dog to take him out? Could it be Cal’s ex-wife Noelle, an aspiring pop diva who positively loathes her ex-husband? Or could it be someone from Cal’s trusted inner circle?
A brilliant student with a bright future ahead of him, Isaiah was on track to make something big out of his life when tragedy forever altered his path. Floundering, deeply depressed and struggling to keep a roof over his head, he becomes roommates with Dodson, who, at the time, was a low level gangbanger dealing drugs. When Isaiah’s quest for revenge takes over his life, Dodson convinces Isaiah to become his partner in crime. No ordinary criminals, the two approach their heists in a cool, deliberate manner as Isaiah plans their burglaries with meticulous detail and a calculated plan to fence their merchandise so they fly under the radar. However, Isaiah eventually gets tired of Dodson’s flashy lifestyle and live-in girlfriend and after a close call on one of the burglaries, he tries to end their partnership. After a pivotal moment that provides him with some much needed clarity, Isaiah gets on the right side of the law and often takes cases for people who pay him with goods more often than cash.
Isaiah solves his cases using a combination of intelligence, common sense and acute observations. With his latest case, he quickly zeroes in on the unusual manner in which the hit man tried to kill Cal and using his vast network of resources, he and Dodson narrow down their suspect list and pay an innocuous visit to a dog breeder in the area. Although their questions yield few answers, Isaiah is convinced he is their man but he has difficult time convincing anyone, including Dodson, they are on the right track. The investigation continues to plod along without them uncovering any major evidence but Isaiah is tenacious in his attempt to piece together the puzzle.
Isaiah’s relationship with Dodson is complex and at times acrimonious due to their history together. Flashbacks to their criminal past slowly reveal how their partnership came to a tempestuous end. Isaiah is guilt-ridden over his (perceived) role in a tragedy from those long ago days and he refuses to give up trying to right that oh so tragic wrong. He really is a good guy who was dealt a terrible hand and while he may have temporarily veered off track, his conscience would not allow him to stay there. Isaiah’s need to help those is need is admirable and he has a strong moral compass that now keeps him on the straight and narrow.
Gritty with authentic dialogue, IQ is an incredibly well-written mystery with a distinctive crime fighting duo. Joe Ide’s descriptive prose brings the setting and characters vibrantly to life which makes the reader feel like they are part of story and not just a spectator to the unfolding events. Although a bit of a slow starter, the novel is eventually impossible to put down as Isaiah and Dodson try to unravel the mystery of who hired a hit man to kill Cal. I absolutely loved this fantastic debut and highly recommend it to fans of the genre.