Joe Ide’s debut novel “IQ” – young, orphaned, black, brilliant: Sherlock in the Hood

In his childhood, “my favorite books were the original Sherlock Holmes stories” – Joe Ide

The fantastic debut novel “IQ” could fill the void for fans of “Breaking Bad” — “IQ” has already been optioned for a TV series. Can’t happen too soon for me! I love this novel on so many levels – starting with the introvert who didn’t fit in, but he defeats his enemies with the power of his intelligence. Ide “grew up in South Central L.A., so the inner city was comfortable terrain and Sherlock in the hood was born.” See more here:


“… Like me, (Sherlock) was an introvert who didn’t fit in, but unlike me, he defeated his enemies and controlled his world, and he did it with only the power of his intelligence. I was a small kid in a big neighborhood, and that idea affected me deeply. When contemplating the book, a Sherlockian character was the only thing that occurred to me. I grew up in South Central L.A., so the inner city was comfortable terrain and Sherlock in the hood was born.” — “Sherlock in the Hood: PW Talks with Joe Ide”  By Lenny Picker |Aug 12, 2016

“A resident of one of LA’s toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD”

Pre-Order “IQ” Hardcover  – release date: October 18, 2016

Via NetGalley, I received an ARC in August 2016. Wow! Five stars, without reservation!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels inspired a whole wave of crime noir detective stories, but this–this! “IQ” is a rare version of the beloved Sherlock Holmes trope. This detective is brilliant and gifted at inductive reasoning (all the Holmes knock-offs are), but he’s also a high school dropout, an orphaned Black kid living in a rough part of Los Angeles. His name is Isaiah Quintabe, but others know him only as IQ.

The language is laced with profanity. The characters are straight from all the stereotypes of rap, pimp culture and drug traffickers, and yet these characters are fully realized, authentic, carefully rendered – not a single cardboard cutout in the entire cast.

The pain and loss Isaiah suffers, first both parents, then his only brother, come across vividly. “He was empty. A birdcage without a bird.” Beautiful! I’m forever shutting the book on amateur authors who write of “memories, overwhelming in their intensity, flowing through” the hero. Joe Ide gives us a teenaged boy hearing his brother sing in the bathroom, until the anguish crackles toward him, burning away his denial:

“Marcus wasn’t coming out of the bathroom and he never would again and Isaiah felt himself turning to ashes and crumbling into nothing.”

The dynamic of how Isaiah relates with other humans if splendidly rendered. The friend or foe theme with Dodson is classic and all too believable. The spiraling consequences of selling drugs or perpetrating robberies “just until” they have enough money to pay the rent reminds me of the best TV show ever written, “Breaking Bad.” The details about pit bulls, dog fights, attack dogs, and how their training has evolved – fascinating, horrifying. The rapper who’s so rich, he can burn a pile of his ridiculous, expensive possessions – I winced and cringed.

Everything in this story sounds so authentic, I was surprised the author is of Asian/American descent, not African American. I’m curious to hear if he got it all right, because I wouldn’t know, having lived all my life in a fairly idyllic part of the Midwest. It wasn’t any fairy tale, though. My sister, at almost 19, was murdered in one of those nice small towns where crime is supposed to be nonexistent. I wish we’d had an Isaiah here in November 1975 to nail the killer, because all these years later, Julie’s is still a Cold Case.Drug trafficking was rampant in this nice little college town (and the nice little private college, too, where a journalism student was raped and murdered months after my sister, and Lisa, too, is still a Cold Case).

Normally I avoid thrillers and whodunnits, in part because it’s frustrating to see others solve crimes when cases so close to home remain frozen. It’s rare that a detective novel interests me, much less that I should find it riveting and even gratifying. Last time this happened, it was also disturbing (“Rape: A Love Story” by Joyce Carol Oates, in which the vigilante justice was a bit much for me).

Line after line from “IQ” is highlighted in my Kindle. E.g.,

Burnout: it’s “an Oprah disease, like mother-in-law phobia,” right?

I’d have to choose from hundreds of passages worth quoting. For now, I can only say this is the rare book I would buy and give away to others–something that has become my new “gold standard” in critiquing a novel. I’d definitely read sequels, especially with that teaser about the car in the junk yard, in the epilogue. This is a novel that belongs in book club discussion groups, where I could spend hours hearing what others think.

I wince and cringe at the gritty details of urban gang life and the bad choices people make, but I laugh at the crisp, darkly humorous dialogue,  and marvel at Isaiah’s intelligence and powers of observation. With that teaser in the end of a certain car in a junkyard, we can be confident that this is only one of many great stories about IQ, the first Sherlock I know of who grew up in the hood.

About carolkean

novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic for Liberty Island and Perihelion Science Fiction; native prairie/guerilla gardener; champion of liberty, indie authors & underdogs; one of the top two reviewers in Editors &Preditors Poll 2015; Amazon Vine, NetGalley Top Reviewer
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