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by Joe Ide
Mulholland, January 2020
352 pages
ISBN: 0316509531

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

IQ the nickname genius investigator Isaiah Quintabe is known by is feeling restless. His business as an unlicensed investigator for crimes large and small in his impoverished Los Angeles neighborhood is going well. He has a girlfriend, a talented violinist who was once a client, and he gets along well enough with his former partner, Dodson. But something is missing. He's at loose ends, unsure what he wants to do next.

But not for long. A neighborhood stalwart who runs a corner store is killed in a drive-by shooting, collateral damage in gang warfare. IQ's old flame Grace is back in town, unsettling his feelings. Then things really go sideways. A vicious arms dealer wants him to investigate the murder of his trusted lieutenant.

Since it might be difficult to force the ethical African American investigator to take the case, he makes it impossible for IQ to refuse by kidnapping the violinist. He threatens to break her fingers, putting an end to the music that gives her life meaning, unless IQ finds out who killed his trusted employee in front of his daughter because right now Christiana, the only person in the world the arms dealer cares about, is the prime suspect.

Reluctantly, IQ goes to work, and soon realizes a difficult case is more complicated than he ever expected. Christiana can't remember a thing about the murder, and none of her four alters are reliable witnesses. It's not easy getting a straight story out of a woman whose multiple personalities keep taking turns doing the talking, contradicting each other.

Joe Ide is a natural storyteller who makes the most of a South Central Los Angeles setting that is rich with potential cases. A drive-by shooting. A missing violin. A lonely man who needs coaching on how to impress a prickly woman at a book club and a murder that defies logic. Ide populates his landscape with vivid characters, some who will be familiar from the previous three IQ novels and others are newly introduced. As IQ moves down the sidewalk of his neighborhood, new cases and characters seem to bloom around him in a tropical hothouse of stories, so perhaps it's fitting that his witness is five different people, each radically different from the others.

There's plenty of humor in this almost feverishly busy story, and lots of action. There's also a bruised tenderness for an unlovable man who's been deformed by hate and his complicated daughter, whose traumatic childhood broke her into pieces.

Joe Ide gives noir a new palette of vibrant colors, painting the scene with wild invention and respect for those whose stories are often overlooked. By the time IQ solves the case, it's not clear where he will go next, but readers will want to follow.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, January 2020

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