Tuesday, November 15, 2016

IQ by Joe Ide

The mistake I made when I started reading IQ by Joe Ide was in thinking that I was going to be reading a mystery. I was under that impression because the terms used to promote the book include things such as a "clever thriller about a brilliant young private detective."  And the book starts out that way, with a crime, unrelated to the book's main plot, which is detected and solved by the book's protagonist, Isaiah Quintabe, known as IQ. Subsequently in the main story IQ is, indeed, a private detective hired to find out who is trying to kill a famous rap star. Nonetheless, I found that this book is more about the survival of people in tough situations, and tough neighborhoods, than it is about mere investigation or a conventional murder mystery.

It occurred to me that I needed to embrace IQ as something other than a mystery when, part way through the book, I thought, 'this story is incredibly sad.' Now, plenty of sad and bad things happen in most mysteries but this was more grim (promotional materials call it 'gritty'): IQ and his older brother are orphans. IQ's older brother dies. To hang on to their apartment, IQ takes in a roommate he meets in the school principal's office, Juanell Dodson, who has been kicked out of his home. Without his brother or any family to help, the need for cash takes precedence over everything and IQ's dream of college evaporates. He and Juanell start committing burglaries to raise needed money.

This part of the story is told in alternating chapters with the story of IQ's work for his client, rapper Calvin Wright, known as Black the Knife. Cal is also having a crisis: Not only is someone is trying to kill him, but he is unproductive and, despite all is success, he is questioning what he is doing with his life.

How these and other characters work through the daily problems they are confronting is very engaging reading. It is well worth your time to read IQ for the story of how this smart kid, as well as the other interesting characters, survive in a tough place. Although the mystery itself isn't particularly tension filled, the book has an exciting conclusion. I'm looking forward to reading more about IQ in the future.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Manitou Canyon by William Kent Krueger

Although it conjures up thoughts of Agatha Christie, "cozy mystery" is the term that comes to mind when trying to sum up Manitou Canyon, William Kent Krueger's 15th novel featuring Cork O'Connor. Perhaps that is because even though there is death, kidnapping, and more in the story, the crimes are packed between ample passages about family, love, spirit, and the beauty of nature.

And the setting of the book is beautiful: Tamarack County in Minnesota's North Country. The mystery kicks off with Cork being hired to search for a man who when missing in the Boundary Waters. Although an official investigation for the man, John Harris, had already concluded without success, his grandchildren ask Cork to go to Raspberry Lake for one more look. It is November, the darkest month of the year for Cork, and winter will soon sweep into the area; it is now or never to find Harris. Further, Cork, who took part in the official search and knew the missing man when they were both young, is puzzled by the mystery. "How can a man just disappear and leave no trace, not even his scent for a dog to find," he wonders.

Cork and one of the Harris grandchildren, Lindsay, head out into the Boundary Waters, where they encounter trouble that could not be anticipated. And when the O'Connor clan fails to hear from him, they kick into action to find out what has happened.

With many feats of daring-do, the love of family, and attention to the spirit, the plot of Manitou Canyon unfolds. It is an entertaining story with many twists and turns; a fast-paced, yet cozy, read.