4 stars out of 5
To be sure, this is a solid, well-thought out and well-written debut novel that held my attention right to the end. There's plenty of action, and even some chuckle-out-loud lines.
But all those positives aside, at no time did I really "like" reading it.
That's largely because, for better or worse, the setting - high crime rate East Long Beach, California - is almost impossible for me, a WASP from America's heartland Midwest, to comprehend. I just can't relate to guys who frequently call each other the "n" word (which apparently can be both derogatory and a term of endearment, depending on who's talking to whom). I wrestled with concepts like the young man whose IQ is at near-genius level but who earns money by ripping off local shops and long-time friends whose loyalty disappears at the drop of a dime bag or a busty young woman's tube top.
No, this definitely isn't my world, nor, to tell the truth, is it a world I want any part of. But that doesn't change the fact that this is a really good book; if I could award it 4.5 stars, I would, and I thank the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for giving me the opportunity to read it in exchange for an honest review.
Chapters shift from past to present, serving up details of the coming of age, if you will, of Isaiah Quintabe - or IQ, as he's called - and other shifts take place within chapters. That made it a bit more difficult for me to follow, but in this case it's an effective technique. In the present, the high school dropout is a sort of problem-solver in the style of Sherlock Holmes - a self-made investigator when the need arises and the cops don't want to get serious (which can be often in this high-crime neighborhood). He's hired by a bigwig in the rap music industry who's richer than God but believes that someone is out to get him (and being attacked and nearly killed by a pit bull the size of Texas pretty much proves he's right). He's got a couple of henchmen/bodyguards/friends with questionable intentions; could one or both of them be behind the attack? Or maybe his clearly disgruntled ex-wife hired the hit. Or not.
The flashback scenes take place a few years earlier, when Isaiah lived with his much-idolized older brother Marcus, who kept Isaiah rooted in normalcy and the hope of a better future. But then, the unthinkable happens; Marcus's life is tragically cut short and IQ is left to fend for himself. Paying for their apartment becomes almost impossible, so he finds a roommate in the not-so-upstanding Juanell Dodson. Tying in past and present, the former roommate is the one who talks Isaiah into taking the job for the music mogul.
For those who care about such things (I don't), the language is fairly graphic and the murders and near-murders are fairly grisly. But even to someone like me, who gets this kind of news only from the newspaper or NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, it all seemed very real. And that, if nothing else, makes this book worthwhile reading.
IQ by Joe Ide (Mulholland Books, October 2016); 337 pp.