The hip-hop generation’s answer to Sherlock Holmes returns fast and furious in the third installment of Ide's (Righteous, 2017, etc.) celebrated series.
Over the course of the last two years, Isaiah Quintabe’s stature as a quick-witted neighborhood private eye has grown beyond his East Long Beach, California, base. His bank account, however, hasn’t kept pace with his legend. So IQ’s friend and partner, Dodson, a lapsed street hustler, tells him it’s time to stop accepting ugly sweaters, home repairs, and baked goods as payment and go full-tilt marketing, complete with a Facebook page and rate scale. This business plan quickly goes out the proverbial window when Isaiah accepts as payment paintings from a truculent, enigmatic young artist named Grace, with whom he’d become “intrigued” in the previous novel. Grace wants IQ to find her mother, but when he presses her for details, she becomes resentful and secretive. He deduces that she knows more than she’s telling, and before long, it becomes apparent that Grace and her mother are both in over their heads against a sadistic cabal of Iraqi War veterans implicated in torture at Abu Ghraib more heinous than other, previously exposed incidents. Meanwhile, Dodson, just getting accustomed to new fatherhood, is being blackmailed into robbing a neighborhood dealer named Junior who has a penchant for misusing four-syllable words. Then there’s Isaiah’s Moriarty, Seb, the Oxford-educated African gangster lurking along the edges for any opportunity to ruin, or end, IQ’s life. Ide’s penchant for colorful characters, droll banter, and whackadoodle set pieces is aided by a growing command of narrative dynamics. And Isaiah Quintabe remains an engaging, fascinating protagonist, but there are signs here that he’s becoming more an action hero than a puzzle solver. The world has plenty of action heroes—but nowhere near enough street-wise intellects to serve as role models.
There's a harder, darker edge to the violence that gives this ripsnorting follow-up a rueful yet resonant aftertaste, perhaps in anticipation of more unsettling jolts in the hero's future.