Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Joe Ide summoned an investigative chaos like few others with the creation of his IQ Series, with the second novel, Righteous. The novel follows Isaiah Quintabe’s Vegas adventures as he investigates some Chinese gangsters while also trying to unravel the death of his brother.
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Joe Ide Delves Deeper into IQ’s Story
When Joe Ide came out with IQ, the first novel in the IQ Series, I was quite hopeful something special was in the works, a truly unique detective series with its own heartbeat. The second novel in the series, Righteous, follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, bringing Isaiah Quintabe in for another wild ride, delving deeper into his personal woes while also sending him on an adventure to Las Vegas.
As a quick disclaimer, Righteous completely works as a standalone novel, and I believe can serve as a good entryway into the rest of the series, though I would still recommend starting with the first book if possible.
In any case, to be more precise, a DJ and her boyfriend are being stalked by a crew of Chinese gangsters and a seven-foot-tall loan shark, and needless to say, are about to be murdered soon. With his questionable sidekick Dodson along for the ride, Isaiah races against the clock to find the doomed odd couple and hopefully navigate them towards an exit strategy. However, this only pales in comparison to the storm brewing up inside IQ, the real life mission he must always pursue: finding the truth behind the death of his brother.
Ten years ago, Isaiah’s brother was murdered by an unknown assailant, and the investigation never led to anything conclusive. Even despite his renewed lease on life and great standing in the town, this unsolved aspect of his life gnaws at him every day, and there is only a limit to how much he’ll be able to take. Little does he suspect, the case he is on right now, fraught with deceit as it might be, will lead him on the path of solving his own mystery, the path to confronting the mastermind behind his brother’s death.
The Off-Beat Detective in Righteous
As fun as traditional and classically-structured novels can be, I think from time to time we all get a bit tired of the predictable nature they tend to take on when we delve into them extensively. Brilliant as Agatha Christie might be, read a dozen of her novels in a row and the tendencies will always come floating towards the surface. If like myself you find yourself in this state from time to time, then I think we can agree just how essential novels like Righteous are, where all the rules and conventions are being discarded in favour of the less predictable.
It does start off fairly traditionally, with IQ discovering by accident the car which killed his brother at an auto wrecking yard. However, it doesn’t take long for things to start spinning off into the realms of the unpredictable and sometimes ridiculous, with Isaiah’s investigation quickly gaining amplitude, especially with the addition of the Vegas case and the general presence of his old girlfriend. From there on out things only devolve into a greater frenzy as more and more dubious characters enter the scene, including the loan shark, the gangsters, and eventually the big culprit behind Isaiah’s brother’s murder.
While we can generally surmise the book will end positively with the mysteries solved and the girls saved, it’s one of those cases where the ending hardly matters; it’s all about the unexpected twists, nooks and crannies we navigate on the way there. I will gladly admit I had no idea what to expect after going a few chapters in, and many developments did catch me by surprise, which in my opinion is a great quality if you know what you’re getting into beforehand.
An Essence of Seriousness
With all I’ve said so far about the book’s more outlandish nature, I don’t want you to walk away from this thinking it lacks any sort of depth or meaning… Joe Ide isn’t one to simply introduce elements for their very own sake. On the contrary, I find it rather obvious he spent a good amount of time building his world and fleshing out the characters in his mind as much as he possibly could. The majority of them, especially the important ones, are much more than one-note instruments and even the bad guys have a few interesting things to say.
As much as we might laugh at some of the events and jokes we witness, Righteous also has a darker side which ties in with the development of the essential characters. Ide doesn’t pull back when depicting the cruelty and violence which comes along with human trafficking and the drug trade, and be warned, there are a few fairly gruesome moments which weren’t the easiest to read through. However, they were never gratuitous and served one purpose or another, whether it was to advance the story or characterize someone.
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As for twin investigations running in parallel, I found them both to be surprisingly close in terms of how engaging they were, but I would still have to say overall I was, perhaps obviously, more interested in the brother’s murder. Ide has gotten ever better at striking the right balance between revealing clues and information while leaving us wanting for more, slowly unspooling the yarn of the mystery for us to follow.
The Final Verdict
Righteous by Joe Ide is an excellent follow-up to the first novel in the IQ Series, combining a chaotic and sometimes ridiculous pair of investigations with some solid character and world-building elements, contrasted by some of the darkness in the worst parts of the human soul. If you enjoy murder mysteries which not only stay off the beaten path but actually do it with great success, then I highly recommend you add this novel to your collection.
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.