This past year, Hamilton revolutionized the Broadway musical by infusing it with elements drawn directly from hip-hop culture. This modernization inspired a new segment of society to engage with this historic art form – the diversity on the stage stimulated a more diverse audience. In this way, Joe Ide’s IQ could be described as the Hamilton of crime fiction. His writing brings vitality to the page with the force of a sledgehammer and the grace of pianist. IQ connects the modern urban lifestyle with the traditions of the genre without risking alienation; IQ is about reflecting and unifying our modern, diverse world in all its splendor while maintaining mad respect for the forefathers of the genre.
One could easily make the case for Isaiah Quintabe (IQ) being an urban Sherlock Holmes – and that is certainly true – but such a reductionist view fails to acknowledge Joe Ide’s skill at revitalizing the genre in such a way as to make it more appealing and relevant to a younger, metropolitan readership; all the while still pleasing longtime fans of crime fiction. Plot-wise, IQ is not necessarily ground-breaking, but the attitude behind the writing and the diversity of the characters make every moment feel fresh.
Set in Long Beach, California, IQ finds our hero, Isaiah Quintabe getting embroiled in solving a case of an attempted murder of a rap superstar who happens to have more than his fair share of enemies. Because of the unique way he views things, IQ both confounds and impresses his new client – not to mention the reader, as well. This is not the only investigation at play in IQ, however. Flashbacks documenting Isaiah’s youth show how he came to understand and use his gift for observation. Readers follow as IQ attempts to find the person behind the hit-and-run accident that killed his older brother – the one person who believed in Isaiah enough to mentor and support him.
It is hard to explain what makes IQ read as so decidedly modern. There is a freshness to the language – an edge to it that is not often seen in debut novels, or frankly, in any novel. There is a fearlessness that is almost palpable. Joe Ide taps into the zeitgeist of modern hip-hop mentality and deploys it to maximum effect for his chosen plot. Every tiny detail serves to heighten the atmosphere surrounding these characters – and oh, what characters they are. Readers have seen similar settings, but never in quite this way and certainly not with these escorts.
Wisely, the publishers have packaged IQ in such a way as to signify the seismic shift within by bestowing the book with a cover design to match that energy. The novel’s cover features vibrant graffiti style artwork and dramatic graphical elements against a more generic (ie. traditional) brick wall canvas. Just a hint of the crime novel aspect exists in the paint treatment resembling blood spatter in the upper right corner. This book begs to be pulled down from the shelves.
Even though this is only the first novel to feature IQ, he is already an iconic character in the crime fiction canon. Readers and scholars will be referencing him and his cohorts for years to come. With a debut like this, Joe Ide’s future is looking bright and it is sure to be readers who reap the rewards. IQ will bring new fans to the crime fiction genre and something tells me they are going to be so impressed, they will continue to explore all corners of the genre.
Disclaimer: A print copy of this title was obtained by BOLO Books as a giveaway during Bouchercon. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the book.