IQ by Joe Ide was a big (and very pleasant) surprise for me last year. Named after its protagonist – the very smart and sassy Isaiah Quintabe – I was hooked.
I hadn’t realised the second in the series had been released until I got an email from the publisher but I downloaded it immediately keen to be reunited with the genius PI-of-sorts, determined to get justice for his brother killed years earlier while helping the helpless in his LA neighbourhood.
by Joe Ide
Series: IQ #2
Published by Mulholland Books
on October 17th 2017
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
For ten years, something has gnawed at Isaiah Quintabe's gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge. Ten years ago, when Isaiah was just a boy, his brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The search for the killer sent Isaiah plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Even with a flourishing career, a new dog, and near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown, East Long Beach, he has to begin the hunt again-or lose his mind.
A case takes him and his volatile, dubious sidekick, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a DJ and her screwball boyfriend. If Isaiah doesn't find the two first, they'll be murdered. Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ's life: fail, and he'll lose her. Isaiah's quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, and it will lead him to the mastermind behind his brother's death, Isaiah's own sinister Moriarty.
However… I have to say, for most of the novel, IQ felt like a pale imitation of the character I remembered from the first book in the series, when I’d likened his smart mouth to some of my fave old-time PIs, like Robert B Parker’s Spenser.
Not only does IQ seem to not be his usually sassy self but he’s kinda childishly obsessed with his brother’s ex girlfriend who he’s not seen in nearly a decade. Although that becomes a life lesson of sorts about our ability to cast people into roles we’d like to see them play in our lives.
After reading IQ I commented on how nice it was to read about a more culturally diverse cast of characters. Ide (who’s of Japanese American descent) seems to go even further here and offers up gangs and groups, each as prejudiced against each other as one could possibly imagine.
Eventually the IQ I remembered returns. His childhood bad-influence (now more responsible and dad to be) Juanell Dodson is back and there’s a competitiveness early on between the pair. Of sorts. Dodson surprised he seems to be keeping up with IQ’s sharp mind. Until he’s not. And there’s some weird inconsistency around that: IQ being surprised his friend picks up on things; giving him a hard time because he doesn’t; then feeling feeling threatened when he does.
I should mention I was a tad confused by the structure of the book. Well, that’s not entirely true. I was confused, then kinda annoyed, then felt as if I understood. Although logically I couldn’t quite get my head around the timing of some of the events.
There was a prologue, in which Isaiah finds evidence relating to his brother’s death, indicating he was (in fact) murdered, rather than the victim of a hit and run as thought (eight years earlier). We then settle into the plot of this book… and the ‘case’ he investigates for his brother’s former girlfriend (who IQ secretly fancied at the time). As a result he’s thrown into a world of gambling, drugs, prostitution and Chinese gangs.
But just after that kicks off – without warning – Isaiah is back investigating his brother’s death. In his hometown. Huh? Normally there would be an obvious marker – at least the first instance we move about in time – a different font, a date (or ‘then’ and ‘now’) or something, so we realised what was happening, but it felt like someone had jumbled the chapters and stuck them together in the wrong format. We continue to alternate cases and timeframes (which could be months, years or weeks apart), but the first time it happens is so jarring I almost put the book aside, thinking there was some error in formatting.
Of course, I should mention this could have been more problematic because I read an early electronic copy of the book. The final print and electronic copies may be completely different.
There’s a bit of a change toward the end of this book which very much leaves Ide’s options open. There’s a resolution – a hint of happily ever after, if you like – which would allow the series to finish here; alternatively it allows IQ to turn a corner and the series to change a little. And perhaps either way that’s a good thing.
I suspect I’m being overly harsh in my review and that’s partially because my expectations were so very high. I adored IQ – the first book, and the character – and seemingly others agreed as it was a New York Times Critics’ Best of the Year and nominee for the Best First Novel Edgar Award.
I felt like we didn’t really see any growth this time around, although, if IQ is to survive perhaps it is just Ide drawing a line under a tragic and defining part of his life and readying him for the future.
Righteous by Joe Ide was published by Mulholland Books and is now available.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.