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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.

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