If you’re new to Joe Ide’s IQ series, here are four things that make it a must-read.
I first heard about Joe Ide’s novel, IQ, when the rights for a TV adaptation sold, which happened a year before the novel was published! I am always super interested in reading a book that can get the movie/TV industry betting on it before they even know the reading audience’s interest. Clearly, the work must have an amazing concept, or story, or really strong characters that producers are certain will be a hit. In the case of IQ, it turns out it had it all, and it was a really smart bet.
East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood’s high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can’t or won’t touch.
They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he’s forced to take on clients that can pay.
This time, it’s a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.
1. It’s All About Deductions, My Dear Watson
Isaiah Quintabe (IQ) is an unlicensed private detective in East Long Beach who takes cases mostly from members of his community and accepts payment in the form of whatever they can afford, chickens included. He isn’t wealthy, he doesn’t have friends that work in labs, he doesn’t lift fingerprints or test for DNA; he’s just gifted in being observant. He notices what most people don’t pay attention to or process to connect to other things. It’s always a delight to read a mystery that relies on deducing, something the reader can easily play along with. Like yes, yes that mustard stain on his shirt clearly meant he was eating a hot dog and not skydiving! Or, you know, written better by an actual mystery writer. It feels too easy sometimes when technology can just spit out the suspect’s name or connect someone to the crime. I am team more deducing!
2. The Importance of Setting
Setting matters in every novel, but it especially matters if you’re going to represent an ethnically diverse community. And it’s even more important if that community deals with crime regularly. A lot of times, places are written about from an outside lens that shows a stereotypical picture that does harm. Ide instead brings East Long Beach to life as a community filled with real people and their backstories and lives, rich and far from caricatures or stereotypes. It also leaves room for so many stories to be told by the community and its members that I really hope to get to know many of IQ’s neighbors over the course of the series.
3. A Character That Stays With You Long After Reading
I kept thinking about this series while I binge-watched Netflix’s On My Block—a coming-of-age story about teens in an inner-city L.A. neighborhood. I couldn’t stop imagining IQ helping Jamal with his treasure hunt. Or, actually, it probably would have been Jamal driving IQ bananas in trying to force him to help him find the treasure. Any character that stays with me, that my brain starts pairing with unrelated things, is always a testament to the strength of how well that character was written. They’ve clearly been brought to life in such a manner that I carry them with me and want to see them continue to do their thing while I wait for more novels. So what I’m saying is that IQ is a fantastic character who comes to life from the page and feels completely real.
4. The Series Just Started So You Can Easily Catch-up!
I know that feeling of discovering a mystery series and getting excited only to realize that it’s on book number 18 and suddenly feeling very overwhelmed. Can you just dive in with the most recent release and then make your way through? How long will it take to read 18 books and get caught up? And then you’re suddenly grabbing a standalone novel and running away. I get it. In the case (heh) of the IQ series, however, your timing is perfect because it is recent. You can read four books without the years-long publishing wait between each one. It’s a win-win.
Speaking of those 18 book series, though, I do hope IQ will be around for a long run. I like watching his growth, personal struggles, his relationship with Dodson (oh, does that rhyme with Watson?), and the community he lives in. So more IQ mysteries please, and thank you.
For ten years, something has gnawed at Isaiah Quintabe’s gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge. Ten years ago, when Isaiah was just a boy, his brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The search for the killer sent Isaiah plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Even with a flourishing career, a new dog, and near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown, East Long Beach, he has to begin the hunt again-or lose his mind.
A case takes him and his volatile, dubious sidekick, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a DJ and her screwball boyfriend. If Isaiah doesn’t find the two first, they’ll be murdered. Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ’s life: fail, and he’ll lose her. Isaiah’s quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, and it will lead him to the mastermind behind his brother’s death, Isaiah’s own sinister Moriarty.
Isaiah Quintabe—IQ for short—has never been more successful, or felt more alone. A series of high-profile wins in his hometown of East Long Beach have made him so notorious that he can hardly go to the corner store without being recognized. Dodson, once his sidekick, is now his full-fledged partner, hell-bent on giving IQ’s PI business some real legitimacy: a Facebook page, and IQ’s promise to stop accepting Christmas sweaters and carpet cleanings in exchange for PI services.
So when a young painter approaches IQ for help tracking down her missing mother, it’s not just the case Isaiah’s looking for, but the human connection. And when his new confidant turns out to be connected to a dangerous paramilitary operation, IQ falls victim to a threat even a genius can’t see coming.
Waiting for Isaiah around every corner is Seb, the Oxford-educated African gangster who was responsible for the death of his brother, Marcus. Only, this time, Isaiah’s not alone. Joined by a new love interest and his familiar band of accomplices, IQ is back—and the adventures are better than ever.
In this fifth book in the IQ series, IQ is back, with the same larger-than-life characters and pulse-pounding action fans love–all leading up to a twist even a genius can’t see coming.
What to Read Next
Jamie Canavés is a Book Riot contributing editor who always has a book in one hand. She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia, and spends way too much time asking her goat-dog “What’s in your mouth?!” Tweets: @Oh_Dinky.