In Isaiah Quintabe (IQ), Joe Ide has created one of the most unique and entertaining protagonists to enter the world of crime fiction in a good long time. Left alone at an early age, Isaiah has a somewhat rocky start. But he pulls himself up by the proverbial bootstraps and becomes a brilliant investigator. Mostly he takes cases large and small in and around his L.A. neighborhood that the cops can't solve or simply can't be bothered with. Sometimes he gets paid in cash; sometimes he gets paid in pies or some such thing, and sometimes he doesn't get paid at all. But that's cool; Isaiah has a mission, and the only thing that really matters is that he fulfills it.
Outwardly, Isaiah doesn't make much of an initial impression. He's quiet and laid back, but underneath that exterior lurks a massive intelligence on the order of, say, Sherlock Holmes. Isaiah's sidekick is a diminutive guy named Dodson, who is prone to getting Isaiah into more trouble than the friendship may be worth, and it's Dodson who brings Isaiah the case that constitutes the bulk of the novel.
A rap star who's rapidly losing touch with reality and whose career is circling the drain, fears that he is the target of an assassination plot. He's hiding out in his garish mansion, surrounded by a circle of sycophants, and he wants Isaiah to figure out who's behind the plot and put a stop to it. His greedy manager just wants the rapper back in the studio, working on his new album, and would just as soon that Isaiah like to his client to ease his concerns. Well, that's not going to happen, and the deeper Isaiah digs into the case, the more complicated and dangerous it becomes--especially when a one hundred and thirty-five pound killer dog enters the picture.
The novel switches back and forth between 2005 and 2013. The earlier chapters treat Isaiah's youth and detail the circumstances that led him to his path as an adult. The later chapters detail the current investigation. Isaiah himself is a very attractive and intriguing character, and the rest of the cast is brilliantly imagined. At points the book is very touching and at others it's hilariously funny. Ide strikes a very nice balance, emotionally, and the book is a terrific read. There's no mystery at all about the fact that it was nominated for virtually every honor in the crime fiction world, including the prestigious Edgar Award. I'm already looking forward to the sequel.