Joe Ide’s Vision of a Criminal Future
While in reality we might be moving further away from criminality-ridden societies, dreamers such as Joe Ide can hardly resist imagining them in our alternate timeline, as he did in his debut novel IQ.
Showing us the kind of future we can only expect to see as society falls further and further towards its seemingly inevitable collapse, the novel marks the debut for the author’s IQ Series, and introduces us to the beacon of hope in a darkened Los Angeles, Isaiah Quintabe.
Taking us to East Long Beach more specifically, the novel first presents the reality in which we are dropped in. Ever-rising crime rates, unsolved murders and kidnappings left and right, with the police being increasingly-powerless in the face of a growing lawlessness.
However, a lone and unassuming citizen, armed with an amazing intelligence and incomparable perseverance, has taken it upon himself to clean up the streets and help the people, as much as he can of course. Enter Isaiah Quintabe, or IQ, as he is called by the rest of the world.
Though he generally tries to take on cases where the downtrodden need help, IQ must also make ends meet and take on clients who can pay him well. In our first outing with him, this client is a big rap mogul whose life is under threat from seemingly every single direction.
A little begrudgingly, IQ jumps into the case, only to realize a little too late the world of madness he just entered. With crazed hitmen, cutthroats, giant attack dogs and vengeful ex-wives on the prowl, this case promises to be nothing if not dangerously complex for everyone involved.
The Self-Made Hero in IQ
When it comes to book series which choose to focus on the same protagonist time and time again, I think it’s only fair to take a bit of time and truly assess the person we are going to be following on their adventures, the person we’ll be spending our free time with.
Overtly-speaking, I wasn’t entirely sure of what to make of our Isaiah at first, and had doubts as to how much he had to offer or whether we would gel together. However, as I got further and further into the book, his character slowly acquired more depth and meaning, and the reasons to like him kept compounding on each other.
To begin with, while he does seem to be gifted with Sherlock Holmes-like detective abilities, we quickly learn they didn’t simply appear out of nowhere. Rather than simply being gifted with them, Isaiah actually had to train long and hard to make use of his talents, and we get a whole lot of these little details throughout the book.
While we start off as seeing him somewhat removed from reality, as we learn more and more about how he got to where he is Isaiah begins to take on more human characteristics. He isn’t just a crime-solving robot with a few quirks, but a complex person with his own share of baggage and sacrifices committed.
I should also add Joe Ide is quite good at pacing our discoveries about the protagonist without ever detracting from the main story. The flashbacks are inserted tastefully and always give us some interesting tidbit about how life shaped him. Consequently, we also see the long-lasting effects of the impactful moments from Isaiah’s past by exploring the sense of morality guiding him in the present day.
Though he strives to do the right thing and to be fearless, he is definitely not without faults. Most importantly, there is clearly a lot of room for growth and development over the sequels.
A Methodical Narrative
Moving onward to the actual story itself, I was at first concerned it would end up feeling a bit cliched or caricature-like… after all, we can only have so many novels about alternate timelines filled with crime. To my pleasant surprise, the world and the story were anything but caricatures or cliches.
Ide makes a point of showing us a world clouded in a sort of grey moral fog, where even the bad guys, despite being bad, can often be understood in the context of their lives. There aren’t many people to actually love or hate, at least not until you understand their circumstances and motivations.
Alternating consistently between 2005 and 2013, the narrative keeps a steady enough rhythm where it didn’t take me too long to get used to the jumps in time. While the 2005 narration is mostly focused on Isaiah’s backstory, the 2013 one is all about the investigation done for the rap mogul. This is one of those mysteries where it’s more about the investigative journey than it is about outing the responsible party; it’s less a Whodunit, more of an investigative thriller.
IQ‘s investigative methods steal the show, at least in my opinion, whenever they are given the time to shine. I personally always absolutely adored reading about the reasoning of detectives in Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle novels, and Joe Ide might certainly join this worthy group of legends if he keeps improving.
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Isaiah’s chain of logical deductions and observations seems to be impenetrable at first, but as we are exposed to it, it begins to feel obvious in retrospect. To me personally, this is an important sign of quality which most investigative mysteries can be judged by; if it seems unsolvable at first, but obvious in hindsight, the author did their job well.
The Final Verdict
IQ by Joe Ide is one of the most promising debut novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading in recent memory, marking the beginning of a new investigative mystery series with a profound protagonist and a brain-twisting plot. If you consider yourself a fan of Sherlock Holmes-like characters and mysteries, then I strongly recommend you give this novel a try.
Joe Ide is an American writer primarily focusing on crime fiction. Having grown up in Los Angeles, he is more than familiar with the setting he uses for his series of crime novels, titled the IQ Series. His debut novel, simply titled IQ, was nominated for the 2017 Edgar Award for best first novel by an American writer. Addition entries in the series include Righteous, Wrecked and Hi Five.