Anthony McIntyre on reading a novel by a Japanese-American author with an eye for the road less travelled.
My wife described it as Easy Rawlings meeting The Wire. I had read Easy Rawlings many years ago - a character created by Walter Mosley - in the sun of Majorca and recently completed watching The Wire, a brilliant televised drama. While getting her point, it would be unfair to mislead the reader into any sense of either of the two works being plundered. IQ occupies its own niche and is a refreshing look at the criminal underworld through a fairly light-hearted eye.
There is a strange start to the book - the main protagonists turn out not to be so. But Joe Ide is a clever writer and knows how to retain the reader’s attention even in the changing of the plot. Boyd, a paedophile, is sitting outside a school drooling over the prospects of kidnapping an unsuspecting child. The encounter with Isiah is by way of introduction, like something from the opening scenes of a Dirty Harry movie: a means to familiarise the audience with the good guy, the bad guy belonging there for illustrative purposes … unless he makes an appearance in a follow up novel.
Isaiah “IQ” Quintabe, abbreviated to IQ for reasons that become crystal clear, has a conscience which his partner in crime, and crime solution, Dodson, lacks. Much of it comes from what he imagines his late brother Marcus says to him, whose voice he continues to hear long after his death. Some years earlier, Marcus died as a result of a car crash. Dodson moved in to help cover the cost of the rent while IQ was on a mission to find who had killed his sibling. IQ had financial problems and was employable by those who could pay the exit fee from a quandary. He assumed the role of a private dick but there was nothing of a dick about IQ, nor of those who would on occasion seek to kill him.
IQ is in his 20s and is super intelligent. He spots things instantly, joins dots and teases out patterns that others, particularly Dodson, are oblivious to. The relationship between IQ and Dodson is productive although strained, but with the LAPD not being a leader of the pack when it comes to solving crime, this seemingly ill fitting duo step into the breach. The tension between IQ's ethical restraint and Dodson's anything-goes opportunism is what drives much of the narrative. Dodson doesn't understand IQ but is well understood by him.
The novel works in two separate time periods, 2006 and 3013. If the reader allows their attention to meander, confusion will soon set in. Pay attention. Skip is not a nice guy, but nobody in this book other than IQ values niceness as a quality. Everybody is on the make or the take. The handle of our main thug is not chosen for the skip of the beat the heart must endure when he is within touching distance. His touch is not a kindly one. Then there are the dogs to whom Skip is absolutely devoted - but that does not make this a book for the animal lovers. The near fatality at the poolside in a rock star's palace explains that.
The book has a way of stating the obvious - just as the reader is wondering what is going on the author makes it very clear. It is quirky narrating technique but works well. The suspension of suspense is specific and does not detract from the general quality of the of the book.
Normally not my line of crime drama, preferring something with the type of gravitas served up by Scandi noir, Joe Ide has chiselled out an LA crime niche. Some readers have commented on the Sherlock Holmes characteristics assumed by IQ but the reader should not be deterred by the insufferable Benedict Cumberbatch. Had I for one second thought I would encounter a character like Cumberbatch, I would not have got beyond the first page.
This Joe Ide novel is crime drama straying off the beaten path. Without the demons of alcoholic or divorced cops to carry the story along, Ide has found an engine that will continue to rev its literary decibels, carrying Isiah Quantabe well into his 30s.
Joe Ide, 2017, IQ. Publisher W @ N. ISBN-13: 978-1474607186.