Sherlock Holmes comes to South Central Los Angeles. Only he’s black, never finished high school, and can’t seem to hold on to a regular job.
Unlike Holmes or other flamboyant “consulting detectives” whose powers of ratiocination have held readers’ imaginations captive since the Victorian era, Isaiah Quintabe, young, gifted, and nonchalantly brilliant, displays few distinguishable quirks beyond a formidable attention span that misses nothing. Well, having a live chicken named Alejandro wandering around his crib may be a little eccentric. But IQ, as he’s appropriately known, earned that bird for services rendered as a discreet, unlicensed investigator who finds missing people, recovers stolen property, and unravels puzzles too delicate or perplexing for the LAPD to handle. Business is steady but sluggish, and IQ, goaded by a one-time high school frenemy named Dodson (rhymes with “Watson,” get it?), agrees to go for bigger bucks in helping to find out who’s trying to murder rap idol Calvin “Black the Knife” Wright, who’s undergoing something of an emotional crisis. The list of suspects is, to say the least, eclectic, beginning with Cal’s ex-wife, Noelle, an ambitious pop diva, and a posse of hangers-on and moneymen, any one of whom might be greedy or vicious enough to sic upon Cal the most monstrously lethal attack dog since the Hound of the Baskervilles. In his debut novel, Ide, a Japanese-American who grew up in the same neighborhood as his mercurial characters, flashes agility with streetwise lingo, facility with local color, and empathy with even the most dissolute of his characters. If there’s a problem, it’s that IQ, for all his brilliance at inductive reasoning (as opposed to “deductive”; apparently there is a difference), seems at once too removed and too moody for readers to connect with. His origin story, alternating with the main investigation, at times reads like the usual gang-violence melodrama. But the roughhousing energy, vivid language, and serrated wit Ide displays throughout this maiden effort make Isaiah Quintabe seem a potential rejuvenator of a grand literary tradition.
The present day, with its high-strung social media and emotional overload, could use a contemporary hero like Ide's, more inclined to use his brain than his mouth (or fists) to vanquish evil and subdue dread.