by Joe Ide
Mulholland Books, October 2016, $26

The blurbs suggest that troubleshooter Isaiah “IQ” Quintabe’s debut is “part Tarantino, part Sherlock Holmes.”

Maybe. But I’d suggest there’s a healthy dollop of “gee whiz” à la Robert Arthur Jr.’s Three Investigators series in there, too. In particular the Investigators’ Jupiter Jones, a confident if eccentric young genius who trusts in logic. But IQ isn’t living in a loopy yet essentially benign white-bread SoCal suburb where evil lurks at the Scooby-Doo level. Nope, IQ’s universe is infinitely more dark and dirty, a Los Angeles where children disappear. For good. And people get killed. For real.

The novel, the first in a proposed series, alternates between origin story and detective story.

Here’s the meet-cute. Left on his own after his beloved older brother Marcus dies, Isaiah, an honor student, drops out of high school and reluctantly takes in a boarder, the sometime dealer Dodson, a pint-sized chatterbox and would-be gangsta and ladies man whose bark is worse than his bite. Dodson soon becomes Isaiah’s partner in a brief but mostly successful stint as professional thieves, and eventually serves as his Watson.

But the action also follows IQ, now in his twenties and working on the side of the angels as a local private eye who takes on, at Dodson’s urging, a “payday case.”

Seems someone sicced a gigantic pit bull dog on legendary rapper Black the Knife (aka “Calvin Wright”). But who sends a dog to kill a man? And, assuming it was a failed hit, who would hire such a person? The ex-wife? A professional rival? A member of his own entourage? Cal is willing to pay big bucks to find out.

The ensuing investigation is a hoot, caught somewhere between Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, particularly when the canine-averse Dodson goes to the dogs. Meanwhile, Cal’s loosening grip on reality gets played for big laughs, and the assorted low-lifes, scam artists, hangers-on, and oddballs that fill Cal’s world aren’t exactly portraits of mental health either. Then there’s that gun-nut dog breeder....

Unfortunately, the two narrative threads too often simply run parallel, undercutting each other’s narrative push, making for an enjoyable but uneven read. But now that we’ve seen where Isaiah and Dodson have come from, I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Promising.

Kevin Burton Smith
Teri Duerr
October 2016
Mulholland Books