Why I Like Joe Ide

IQ book cover

A blurb hooked me, exactly like they’re supposed to. No telling where I read it since my hands are a veritable carousel churning through rounds of books—maybe I’ll take better notes from here on out. But someone somewhere said there was no other narrator he’d rather journey through a book with than Joe Ide’s Isaiah Quintabe, the titular IQ.

The only thing I love more than reading a good book is finding a new series to start. I’d just finished Karin Slaughter’s, The Last Widow, so I traveled back in time, in terms of pub date chronologically, to read IQ. I’d meant to. In 2016 when I was working at my local public library as a desk jockey, the book had come out big and landed on my radar. Back then though, there wasn’t the time. And IQ had fallen off my radar until that blurb.

Every reviewer raves about IQ, as a narrator. And he is the book’s big draw. It’s a new perspective, this high school drop-out operating in Long Beach, the same city that gave the world Snoop Dogg as reviewers also like to point out. Unlike Snoop Dogg though, IQ’s easy to relate to. He’s a good guy mourning his brother. I haven’t read another character with this street-tough POV, and his voice pulled me right into and through the book. The mystery was almost secondary, though it was also good.

I loved seeing the world through IQ’s eyes. His proximity to unusual and well-drawn bad guys while keeping his moral code (mostly) intact is appealing. And walking through the neighborhoods of this book with him is like approaching a snarling dog from the safe side of a tall fence. You get the feeling Joe Ide has walked down these same streets, meeting and greeting and mostly avoiding the same toughs, but getting their numbers all the same.

The fact Joe Ide readily admits he is, and has long been, a fan of Sherlock Holmes adds an interesting gloss to IQ. As a matter of fact, New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin calls him “a street-smart Sherlock.” Like Sherlock, IQ reasons things out. Half the fun of the book is how Ide shows us IQ’s mind at work, from tracking a hit-and-run driver’s route to figuring out how to infiltrate a barn full of killer dogs—which, pleasingly, fails. I mean, who likes a perfect narrator?

I hurried into the second book, Righteous, but stopped short, didn’t finish it. I’d recently read a book about female trafficking, (Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky, Jackson Brodie #5), and I wasn’t up for more along that line. Seriously, isn’t there another plot out there right now? Then there was the reason that everyone cites but rang true for me in Ide’s second book—I didn’t care for or about the characters. The gambler girl who sells out her father so she and her no-good boyfriend can gamble more, who needs them in their life? I didn’t. At least not now.

But if you are a writer looking for an example of close third narration, and you want a book that moves through an interesting neighborhood, I strongly recommend IQ. The first scene of him saving a girl abducted in a boat with a grenade launcher is worth the price of the ride.

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