Monday, 25 February 2019


Isaiah Quintabe is a detective, a community problem-solver in the run-down East Long Beach area of LA. He doesn't get paid much, some muffins, a chicken, whatever. But one day his former friend Dodson, a small-time hustler with big-time attitude, brings him a case with a juicy payday: a drug-addled rap star whose life is being threatened, whose entourage contains nothing but suspects, and an attempted murder by a trained giant pit bull who recalls an urban Hound of the Baskervilles.

IQ is not a black Sherlock Holmes, of course: just listen to his lecture about inductive versus deductive logic. But he's as close as it's going to get in Los Angeles, and with Dodson as his even-more-unlikely Dr. Watson, he's soon caught up with a vicious killer for hire who has him firmly in his sights.

If this were simply a Holmes pastiche dressed up for modern LA, this first novel would be nothing memorable but two things make it stand out. First is Joe Ide's deft handling of character and dialogue, which allows the characters space to make the story move, rather than letting it be driven solely by plot. But even more impressive is the way Ide structures the story, taking it back to Isaiah's childhood, the death of his older brother, and his former relationship with Dodson, to fill in not only how he became IQ, but the wider picture of the environment, the hood, and the lives of the people who live there. There is a good analogy with the Holmes stories: part of their enduring charm is the portrayal of the world around Holmes and Watson, and the ways in which they navigate it: Ide had done much the same thing for IQ and his LA.

This is as impressive a first novel as I've encountered in years; which is not a daring thing to say as it was nominated for the Edgar for Best First Novel. I got the same sort of buzz I did when I read Walter Mosley's first, for much the same reasons. Easy and IQ are a nice comparison, though no one is a Mouse. It works because IQ is not a gimmick detective, but because for all his exceptional skills, he is a real character, one smart enough but not quite as worldly as you might think, which allows the rest of the cast to bounce off him. Which, when you think about it, is what Holmes does too. Though Watson is no way as hip as Dodson.

IQ by Joe Ide
Weidenfeld & Nicholson £8.99 ISBN 978147460718 

NOTE: This review will also appear at Crime Time (

No comments :