This is Joe Ide’s debut novel, and if – like the book copy says – it’s “inspired by his early experiences,” then I’m guessing his life is about a thousand times more eventful than mine. It’s all for the good though, since it helped him create this book.
IQ is the nickname of private investigator Isaiah Quintabe, who – I have no doubt- we’ll be seeing in future installments of Ide’s work. Isaiah is a big picture, small detail man, much in the vein of Sherlock Holmes: He sees connections; he uses deduction, and, perhaps most importantly, he often sees what is missing or left unsaid. “It made no difference at all but he couldn’t help seeing what he saw. Things different or things not right or out of place or in place when they shouldn’t be or not in sync with the words that came with them.” Isaiah is a problem solver, a person who sees all the puzzle pieces and recognizes when one’s missing, then tries to figure out who has got it stuck to the bottom of their shoe.
And he’s in his element when presented with a star-maker of a case: A blackmailed, deeply depressed billionaire rap mogul is being targeted for execution, and he needs IQ to figure out why. He’ll pay handsomely, of course, which matters to a guy who usually accepts barter in lieu of payment, but it quickly turns complicated. One major problem is that it comes attached with a less than trustworthy slimy/slick sidekick-y guy from IQ’s past, Dodson, who I didn’t trust from moment one, but who helps in unanticipated ways. The story flows backwards and forwards in time (sometimes, creating a little more complexity than I appreciated), and focuses on IQ’s mind, his train of thought, and the rapid fire thought processes that get him to his most logical, and illogical, conclusions. He solves the mysteries, big and small, and he does it with a flair of a quiet man who has put up with too much of your B.S. (an attitude I can deeply connect with.)
Honestly I’d prefer a whole book of Isaiah’s local little cases, that probably nobody else cares about; For me, though, seeing him interact with his community on that level, develop the relationships and solve real people’s issues, were the best part of the story. Not that the gigantic, billionaire rapper’s case wasn’t intriguing: it just seemed less real than the others. I want more of the neighbors, and less of the rich guy who’s so annoying that I don’t particular care if he gets murdered or not.
There’s a lot of heavy things being addressed in this book – What if, in your youth, you’d made a mistake? A mistake so large so far-reaching there was no taking fit back? The kind of mistake you’d never make now, the kind of mistake you spend your whole life atoning for and don’t come close to making up for? What are the ripples and repercussions of those sort of mistakes in the adults you eventually grow into? That’s a large element to this book- the questions of atonement and attritions, and how to live a good life after you’ve done something unquestionably bad.
There’s also the language of the book – I’m sure it’s going to be called ‘gritty’ in more than one review, Amazon, – but it’s also built from the neighborhood the book is meant to represent, the local lingo, the street talking. It is both genuine to the story, and takes a little while to get used to the rhythm of it, but it works for this story. And, on the plus side, every time I see people referred to as ‘chocolate’ or the like (‘her dark chocolate thigh gleaming in the California sunshine’), I think about mayonnaise people now, so: Thanks, tumblr.*
Just a side note – does anybody else do that thing where they’re reading a book and the prologue is about one thing and then the chapters start, and they’re talking about something else entirely, and you totally forget the (usually horrible) thing the prologue was talking about, and when it comes back into play, you’re startled? Like “oh that was THIS book!? What the heck, I forgot all about that??” Yeah, this was one of those books that that happened to me with.
And, lastly, I received my copy from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
*(You should read those links: the first is hilarious: ‘her skin glowed with mozzarella undertones’, and the second is a serious explanation of why this is a problem.)