My Favorite Crime/Mystery/Detective/Thriller Fiction of 2018

Once I settled on dividing this chunk of my reading out for its own list, I knew instantly half of the books that’d make it before I looked at just what I’d read in 2018. After going through that list, I had 15 more candidates for the other 5 spots. Whittling those down was hard, but I’m pretty comfortable with this list. That doesn’t mean the other 90 or so books I read in this family of genres were bad — most were great (I can think of maybe 5 I could’ve missed). But these are the crème de la crème.

Man, I wanted to write the crème de la crime there. But I’m better than that.

Not all of these were published in 2018 — but my first exposure to them was. As always, I don’t count re-reads, or almost no one could stand up to Stout, early Parker, etc. and my year-end lists would get old fast.

Now that I’m done with this, I can focus on 2019.

(in alphabetical order by author)

The Puppet ShowThe Puppet Show

by M. W. Craven

My original post
A book with some of the darkest moments I came across last year — and some of the brightest, too. The mystery was great, the character moments (not just between the protagonists) were better — great rounded, human, characters. Even after I saw where Craven was going with things, I refused to believe it — and only gave up when I had no other choice. Two (at least) fantastic reveals in this book, very compelling writing and fantastic characters. What more do you want? Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are two of my favorite new characters and I can’t wait to see where they go next.

5 Stars

Needle SongNeedle Song

by Russell Day

My original post
I could pretty much copy and paste that above paragraph for this one. It never gets as dark as The Puppet Show, but the depravity displayed is bad enough to unsettle any reader. What makes this story compelling isn’t really the crime, it’s the way the crime impacts the people near it — those who lost a family member (I don’t want to say loved one) and those who are close to the suspects. Yakky and Doc Slidesmith are characters I hope to see again soon, and I want to bask in Day’s prose even more.

5 Stars

She Rides ShotgunShe Rides Shotgun

by Jordan Harper

My original post
The story of a little girl being surrounded by death and destruction, with both looming and threatening her all the time, and her discovering how to be brave. The story of a man trying to be a good father — or just a father. The story of survival. A story of revenge. A story about all kinds of violence. Wonderfully told.

4 Stars

WreckedWrecked

by Joe Ide

My original post
Not as entertaining as IQ, but it works as a novel in ways the previous two didn’t. I don’t know if I could put my finger on it, but it’s there. Wrecked is a clear step in evolution for Isaiah, Dodson, and probably Ide. It definitely demonstrates that the three are here to stay as long as Ide wants, and that these characters aren’t satisfied with being inner-city Sherlock/Watson, but they’re going places beyond that. Some good laughs, some good scares, some real “I can’t believe Ide ‘let’ them do that to Isaiah” moments — a great read.

5 Stars

A Mint Condition CorpseA Mint Condition Corpse

by Duncan MacMaster

My original post
I put off reading this for reasons I really don’t understand and haven’t forgiven myself for yet. But the important thing is that I read it — it took me a chapter or two to really get into it, but once I did, I was in hook, like and sinker. In my original post I said this is “a joy to read; full of characters you’ll want to spend days with, that you’ll want to have over for Thanksgiving dinner just to lighten things up and distract you from Aunt Martha’s overcooked yams and dry turkey; a completely fun time that’s very likely most I’ve enjoyed a book in 2018. It is escapist. It is silly. It is clever.” I also said, “Probably the 5-Star-est 5-Stars I’ve given this year.” There are a couple of books that could compete for that line, but I’m not sure they’d win.

5 Stars

My Little EyeMy Little Eye

by Stephanie Marland

My original post
Fantastic, fantastic premise. Great hook. Another great pair of protagonists (although most of their work is independent of each other). A True Crime blogger and a DI racing to uncover a serial killer, while battling dark secrets, dark pasts, and outside pressures that threaten to derail them at every turn. Marland surprised me more often and in more ways than just about any author this year. I was floored by some of them, too. A great puzzle, a great mish-mash of amateur detective and police procedural.

4 1/2 Stars

Her Last MoveHer Last Move

by John Marrs

My original post
I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into when I said yes to this Book Tour request. I’m not sure I could have — no offense to Mr. Marrs, but I don’t think I’d heard of him before. He’s definitely on my radar now. This was brutal, devastating, shocking, and just about every other adjective reviewers (professional and otherwise) overuse when describing a thriller. Marrs did so many things I didn’t think he would do. He didn’t do a lot that I thought he would (and seemed to mock the idea that he’d so some of what I wanted him to do). I spent a lot of time while reading this book not liking him very much, but so grateful I was getting to read the book. I’m still upset by some of it, but in awe of the experience.

5 Stars

Stoned LoveStoned Love

by Ian Patrick

My original post
Sam Batford, undercover cop, is back in a sequel that shows real growth from a very impressive debut. Batford is in incredibly murky ethical and legal waters — and that’s not counting what his undercover op is. Any misstep could ruin his career, end his life, land him in prison — or all three. Actually, those options hold true even if he doesn’t make any missteps. There are so many balls in the air with this one that it’d be easy to lose track of one or more. But Patrick doesn’t seem to struggle with that at all — and he writes in such a way that a reader doesn’t either. That’s a gift not to be overlooked. I liked the overall story more than it’s predecessor and think that Patrick’s writing was better here. This is a series — and a character — that you really need to get to know.

4 1/2 Stars (I remember liking it more than that…I’m sure I had a reason at the time)

Exit MusicExit Music

by Ian Rankin

My original post
I’ve spent enough time with John Rebus over the last couple of years that I knew one of the books had to end p here, I just wasn’t sure which one. Exit Music ended up on the Top 10 not so much for the main mysteries (although they put the book in contention), but for all rest of the things that the novel was about — Rebus’ moving on (not knowing how to or to where), Siobhan moving on (and not sure she wants to), and the dozen or so little things surrounding the two of them and their work. Even Big Ger was kind of moving on here — and that’s just strange to read about. Exit Music would’ve been a great way to say farewell to John Rebus, I’m just glad it wasn’t that.

5 Stars

Trouble is a Friend of MineTrouble is a Friend of Mine

by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney (Narrator)

My original post
If not for Kirby Baxter (above), I could say this was the most fun I had with a Mystery novel this year (not to take anything away from the sequels on that front). This is just the right mix of high school hijinks, teen drama, quirky characters and writing with panache. Zoe and Digby are a great combo of smarts, recklessness and responsibility as they work their way through puzzles surrounding missing kids, drug dealing doctors, and some strange cult-like group. You can feel the chemistry between them — like Remington Steele and Laura Holt, David Addison and Maddy Hays, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and Freeman’s Watson. Throw in their friends and frenemies and you’ve got a recipe for fun and suspense. I listened to this on audiobook (and bought the paperback for my daughter before I got to the end, I should add) and McInerney’s narration was perfect — she captured the spirit of the book and made the characters come alive.

4 Stars

My Favorite 2018 (Fictional) Dogs

In one of the lightest moments of Robert B. Parker’s Valediction (just before one of the darker), Spenser describes his reservation about the first two Star Wars movies: “No horses . . . I don’t like a movie without horses.” After watching Return of the Jedi, he comments that it was a silly movie, but “Horses would have saved it.” Which makes me wonder what he’d have thought about The Last Jedi. Horses aren’t my thing, it’s dogs. I’m not quite as bad as Spenser is about them — I like books without dogs. But occasionally a good dog would save a book for me — or make a good book even better. I got to thinking about this a few weeks back when I realized just how many books I’d read last year that featured great dogs — and then I counted those books and couldn’t believe it. I tried to stick to 10 (because that’s de rigueur), but I failed. I also tried to leave it with books that I read for the first time in 2018 — but I couldn’t cut two of my re-reads.

So, here are my favorite dogs from 2018 — they added something to their novels that made me like them more, usually they played big roles in the books (but not always).

(in alphabetical order by author)

  • Edgar from The Puppet Show by M. W. Craven (my post about the book) — Edgar has a pretty small role in the book, really. But there’s something about him that made me like Washington Poe a little more — and he made Tilly Bradshaw pretty happy, and that makes Edgar a winner in my book.
  • Kenji from Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby (my post about the book) — The moment that Grigsby introduced Kenji to the novel, it locked in my appreciation for it. I’m not sure I can explain it, but the added detail of robot dogs — at once a trivial notion, and yet it says so much about the culture Cole Brannigan lives in. Also, he was a pretty fun dog.
  • Rutherford from The TV Detective by Simon Hall (my post about the book) — Dan Groves’ German Shepherd is a great character. He provides Dan with companionship, a sounding board, a reason to leave the house — a way to bond with the ladies. Dan just felt more like a real person with Rutherford in his life. Yeah, he’s never integral to the plot (at least in the first two books of the series), but the books wouldn’t work quite as well without him.
  • Oberon from Scourged by Kevin Hearne (my post about the book) — Everyone’s favorite Irish Wolfhound doesn’t get to do much in this book, because Atticus is so focused on keeping him safe (as he should be). But when he’s “on screen,” he makes it count. He brings almost all of the laughs and has one of the best ideas in the novel.
  • Mouse from Brief Cases by Jim Butcher (my post about the book) — From the moment we read, “My name is Mouse and I am a Good Dog. Everyone says so,” a good novella becomes a great one. As the series has progressed, Mouse consistently (and increasingly) steals scenes from his friend, Harry Dresden, and anyone else who might be around. But here where we get a story (in part) from his perspective, Mouse takes the scene stealing to a whole new level. He’s brave, he’s wise, he’s scary, he’s loyal — he’s a very good dog.
  • Ruffin from Wrecked by Joe Ide (my post about the book) — Without Isaiah Quintabe’s dog opening up conversation between IQ and Grace, most of this book wouldn’t have happened — so it’s good for Grace’s sake that Ruffin was around. And that case is made even more from the way that Ruffin is a support for Grace. He also is a fantastic guard dog and saves lives. His presence is a great addition to this book.
  • Dog from An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson (my post about the book) — I might have been able to talk myself into ignoring re-reads if I hadn’t listened to this audiobook (or any of the series, come to think of it) last year — or if Dog had been around in last year’s novel. Dog’s a looming presence, sometimes comic relief (or at least a mood-lightener), sometimes a force of nature. Dog probably gets to do more for Walt in this book — he helps Walt capture some, he attacks others, just being around acts as a deterrent for many who’d want to make things rough on Walt. Walt couldn’t ask for a better partner.
  • Trogdor from The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin (my post about the book) — Honestly, Trogdor probably has the least impact on the book than any of the dogs on this list. But, come on, a Corgi names Trodgor? The idea is cute enough to justify inclusion here. He’s a good pet, a fitting companion for MG — not unlike Dan’s Rutherford. He just adds a little something to the mix that helps ground and flesh-out his human companion.
  • Mingus from The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (my post about the book) — Like Trogdor, a great name. Like Mouse and Dog, a great weapon. He’s really a combination of the two of them (just lacking Mouse’s magical nature). He’s vital in many different ways to the plot and the safety of those we readers care about. Petrie made a good move when he added this beast of a dog to the novel.
  • Chet from Dog On It by Spencer Quinn (my posts about Chet) — If I couldn’t cut Dog, I couldn’t cut Chet. Listening to this audiobook (my 4th or 5th time through the novel, I believe) reminded me how much I love and miss Chet — and how eager I am for his return this year. This Police Academy reject is almost as good a detective as his partner, Bernie, is. Chet will make you laugh, he’ll warm your heart, he’ll make you want a dog of your own (actually, all of these dogs will)
  • Zoey from Deck the Hounds by David Rosenfelt (my post about the book) — how do I not invoke Tara when discussing an Andy Carpenter book? Good question. It’s Zoey that brings Andy into the story, it’s Zoey that helps Don to cope with his own issues, it’s Zoey that defends Don and saves him (in many ways). Sure, Tara’s the best dog in New Jersey, but Zoey comes close to challenging her status in this book.
  • Lopside from Voyage of the Dogs by Greg van Eekhout (my post about the book) — It almost feels like cheating to bring in a dog from a novel about dogs — conversely, it’s hard to limit it to just one dog from this book. But Lopside the Barkonaut would demand a place here if he was the only dog among a bunch of humans — or if he was surrounded by more dogs. He’s brave, he’s self-sacrificing, he’s a hero. He’ll charm you and get you to rooting for these abandoned canines in record time.

Wrecked by Joe Ide: Isaiah and Dodson Face Their Most Dangerous Foes Yet

WreckedWrecked

by Joe Ide
Series: IQ, #3

Hardcover, 340 pg.
Mulholland Books, 2018
Read: October 19 – 22, 2018

At the end of Righteous, Isaiah meets a girl — I don’t remember much about it, but there’s something about her that clearly makes an impression on IQ — and his dog. It was enough to give us a little hope for our intrepid hero after everything he’d just gone through as we wrapped up the book. This book starts with the three of them bumping into each other again — this time IQ definitely is attracted to her and his dog and the woman clearly enjoy each other’s company. Which is great for them, but you feel a little bad for Isaiah.

Before long, Grace comes to Isaiah with a case. Her mother disappeared a decade ago — under a cloud, it should be added — and Grace saw her on the street near her home. Can Isaiah find her? She’s a painter trying to get a start and really can’t afford much — but gives him a painting as payment.

The catch is, Isaiah and Dodson have recently become partners and Dodson is determined to make Isaiah’s business legitimate. They’ve got a web presence, a Facebook page, and a strict policy on minimum fees. These fees have to be money. No lawn care services, cooking, et cetera. Dodson has a wife and child to provide for and he is inflexible on this point. Isaiah makes an exception and ignores Dodson’s complaints, once Dodson figures out Isaiah’s motivation to take the case, he acquiesces — like a good friend would.

What makes this case complicated is that Sarah, Grace’s mom, is trying to blackmail some very dangerous people. It takes a long time for us to get all the details behind the blackmailing (it’s absolutely worth the wait, and Ide does a great job revealing things to us in drips), but what’s important isn’t the why — it’s the reaction to the blackmail. Isaiah, Dodson and their clients have been in dangerous and tough spots before — but I promise you, those pale in comparison to this. These people bring a level of danger, a level of callousness, a level of professionalism, that will demand more from Isaiah than he’s used to — and he’ll have to find new ways to approach things to survive.

Meanwhile, there’s another blackmail story afoot. One of the darkest episodes of the partners’ (and Deronda’s) past comes back to bite them — a criminal act that they’ve gotten away with, primarily because no one knew they got away with anything. Somehow, word has gotten out, and someone wants money from them to stop him from going public with what he knows. If the victims of this crime — a couple of notorious drug dealers — find out, it will likely prove fatal. Dodson attempts to take care of this on his own, with a little help from Deronda.

Clearly, the partnership isn’t off to the strongest start.

There is a drink described here — not that anyone you’re supposed to like drinks it — that is possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve read this year, it’s a mix of vodka, Coke, and things that shouldn’t be consumed with each other. There are scenes of physical violence and torture in this book, horrible things really, but it’s Parks Punch that left scars.

Actually, there is something more painful, now that I think of it. Junior, one of the drug dealers that IQ, Dodson, and Deronda stole from before years ago appears frequently. He’s got the right idea — a better vocabulary can be tied to greater success in business and life in general. Sadly, Junior is better at acquiring words than he is using them. Resulting in sentences like:

My domicile has been exfoliated! Excavate the premises!

(when he discovers that his home has been broken into) or

Did you discover anything irrelevant?

(to Isaiah after searching for clues). Say what you will about waterboarding or Parks Punch — for me, those lines hurt (and I gave tame examples).

Well, they make me crack up — but they’re also painful.

The action is taut, the twists don’t stop and you have to hold on tight so the pacing doesn’t throw you from the vehicle in the last few chapters. But not only is this the best suspense that Ide’s given us, we have the some of the best emotional moments and character growth so far in the series. Some real trauma is visited on Isaiah, and it’ll be interesting to see how this impacts him going forward (there’s some indication that ide has something in mind along these lines). Similarly, I don’t think I’ve liked Dodson more than I did in this book and his character keeps growing and maturing — I am eager to see how Ide helps him grow in the future.

Unlike IQ or Righteous, we only have one timeline in Wrecked. This is such an improvement — that worked in IQ seemed a drawback in Righteous — but one timeline allows the reader, the pace and the action to focus on Grace and her case.

I’ve been a fan of Ide’s writing and this series since the moment I finished chapter 2 of IQ, but this book worked for me more than his previous work. I don’t know if it’s because I appreciate the characters and style more — or if it’s that Ide has grown with his experience and is delivering something better, I’m not sure. (my money is on the latter, but you never know) This is a fantastic entry very strong series that everyone should hop on board with (start at the beginning, it’s only 3 books — you have plenty of time to catch up).

—–

5 Stars

2018 Library Love Challenge

My Favorite 2017 New (to me) Characters

A few weeks ago, I started to describe someone as one of the best characters I met this year. Which got me to thinking about and honing this list. I’m limiting myself to characters I met this year, otherwise I don’t think there’s be much room for anyone — Spenser, Hawk, Scout, Harry Dresden, Toby Daye, Ford Prefect etc. wouldn’t really allow anyone else to be talked about. These might not be my favorite people in their respective books (although most are), but they’re the best characters in terms of complexity, depth and story potential I doubt I’d like most of them in real life (and can’t imagine that any of them would enjoy me), but in novels? I can’t get enough of them.

(in alphabetical order by author)

  • Aimee de Laurent from Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey (my post about the book)– she’s smart, she’s driven, she’s compassionate, she’s powerful, she’s fallible. She also flies around in a spaceship and does magic.
  • Lori Anderson from Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (my post about the book)– She’s more than Stephanie Plum without the Lucy Ricardo DNA. She’s a tough lady, a dedicated mom, and more. This bounty hunter will impress you with her guts, get your sympathy with her plight, and make you cheer as she bests her opponents (I should probably add “make you wince as she takes some brutal beatings).
  • Ali Dalglish from In the Still by Jacqueline Chadwick (my post about the book)– Ali is a certified (and possibly certifiable) genius. She’s a criminal profiler working in Vancouver, BC after nearly a couple of decades away to raise her kids. But when a serial killer’s victim is found near her home, she’s drug back into the professional world she left with the investigation. She has the most creative swearing this side of Malcom Tucker, a fantastic and fast mind, a jaded look at life, and a sense of humor that’s sure to please. Early in In the Still, she asks questions of a police officer in a public forum and pretty much ruins the poor guy — it’s one of the best scenes I read all year. If you can read that far in the book and not become a Ali fan at that point, there’s something wrong with you. If I was ranking these, I’m pretty sure she’d be #1.
  • Nick Mason from The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton (https://wp.me/p3z9AH-2NI)– A convicted non-violent criminal gets released early from an Illinois prison only to find himself in a different type of prison to work off his debt for being released, making him lose the “non-” in front of violent. He’s a great character, on the verge (always on the verge) of redemption and falling further.
  • Dervan du Alöbar from A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne (my post about the book is forthcoming) — I could’ve named about half of the point-of-view characters from this book, but Dervan eked out a win. He’s a widower in mourning. A former soldier, wounded in duty, turned scholar, turned . . . well — that’s a long story. There’s something about his coming to grips with the new reality, his new vocation, his self-awareness and growth in his personal life just really clicked with me. He’s basically an unqualified fantasy hero, forced to step up and play a role in saving civilization (which actually describes many people in this book, but that’s for another day).
  • Isaiah Quintabe from IQ by Joe Ide (my post about the book)– South-Central LA’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. We meet IQ early in his career and, via flashbacks, see him begin to develop the gifts that will make him the super-detective he’s destined to become. He’s such a great take on this character, I can’t believe no one beat Ide to the punch.
  • Anci from Down Don’t Bother Me by Jason Miller (my post about the book) — yeah, her dad, Slim, is the series start and protagonist. He’s the one that goes trough all the hardship, the beatings, the investigative moves, not his 12-year-old daughter (who isn’t a young Veronica Mars clone, or Rae Spellman). But Anci is the heart and soul of the books — she’s why Slim goes to work in this field, and why he comes back. She’s smarter and wittier than any 12-year-old has any right to be (but believably so), she’s Slim’s conscience, and his reason for doing what he does.
  • LeAnne Hogan from The Right Side by Spencer Quinn (my post about the book)– comes back from Afghanistan after near-fatal injuries, and isn’t fit for the civilian life she’s thrown back into. She begins to deal with her grief and anger while hunting for the child of a dead friend with the help of a stray dog. She’ll break your heart.
  • John Rebus from Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin (my post about the book)– Wow. How do I sum up Rebus? 2017 was the 30th anniversary of Rebus’ creation and the first year I read him. He’s a wonderful, complex character. He smokes too much, he drinks too much, he ignores the rules and regulations (and maybe even the laws) in his ongoing effort to forget about himself and his life by pouring himself into his work. Tenacious with a capital “T”, he may not be the smartest police detective you ever read, but he makes up for it through not giving up (although he’s pretty smart — especially when not drinking).
  • Hob Ravani from Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells (my post about the book)– Tough does not begin to describe this biker. She’s all about surviving on this planet that’s not at all conducive to survival — from the environment, to the economics, to the politics — there’s just nothing on the planet that wants her or her fellow Ghost Wolves to survive. But somehow she does.

Righteous by Joe Ide

RighteousRighteous

by Joe Ide
Series: IQ, #2

Hardcover, 326 pg.
Mulholland Books, 2017

Read: November 3 – 4, 2017


Isaiah Quintabe is back with a couple of dynamite cases. IQ ended with Isaiah stumbling upon the car that killed his brother. So about half of this book is devoted to Isaiah’s renewed efforts to find the man who killed his brother. He quickly concludes that Marcus was not killed in an accident, as he’d believed and the police had included. Rather, it’s pretty clear to him that Marcus was targeted by the driver. So now, Isaiah starts digging — he finds more suspects than he’d prefer, and he starts to have some questions about Marcus’s lifestyle/livelihood.

That story alternates with an actual paying case — Marcus’ girlfriend (and the object of Isaiah’s teenaged affections) comes calling for Isaiah’s help. Her little sister, a gambling addict, and her equally addicted boyfriend are in trouble — they’ve got a Loan Shark gunning for them, and have resorted to some freakishly stupid lengths to get the money they need to get him off their case. These lengths have made them the target of some of the nastiest, deadliest, coldest criminals you’ve ever read. So, Isaiah and Dodson head to Vegas to help them. Dodson is fairly assertive here, not wanting to be relegated to sidekick and PR status, but to been seen as an equal to Isaiah — more of an Elementary‘s Joan Watson than Doyle’s John, without the student-vibe (or Dr. Eric Foreman to Dr. House . . . ugh, there are just too many versions of Holmes to walk an unbeaten path). Which is not to suggest that Ide’s blossoming partnership here is just a retread or a rehash, Dodson just reminds me of Joan a little. There’s a dynamic between these two that you don’t often see in detective duos, outside of police shows where two are forced to work together — a mix of partnership, antagonism, respect, and rivalry.

So why does Isaiah bring him along? Because he’s growing as a person, realizing that he needs social connections, other people in his life — he has a new dog, but that’s not enough. There’s even a longing for something like Dodson’s new family. His work, his trying to make something out of the wreck his life became after Marcus’ death — that’s not enough (nor is it finished) — he wants people around, and Dodson’s the first step.

There’s a couple of criminals wandering around Vegas making life horrible for several people that I’d love to see again — [spoiler] we won’t, and they got what they deserved — but man, I enjoyed them so much. All the “bad guys” (and, wow, were there a lot of them) were much more than your typical mystery novel baddies (even really well-written ones!). They were fully fleshed-out, individuals, with believable (and contradictory) self-interests and motivations.

As compelling as the baddies are, Isaiah is better. And in this book (like IQ) we see one of the ways that Ide is superior to Arthur Conan Doyle. In A Study in Scarlet, we see Holmes as the successful version of himself — on the verge of being a legend, really. Like Athena fully formed, emerging from Zeus’ skull. But IQ is still learning, still fallible — yes, he’s achieved a large measure of success and notoriety, but he’s still making mistakes. He’s good, but he needs more discipline, more patience, less ego, etc. In Righteous, as in IQ, we get the equivalent of Miller’s Batman: Year One and Barr’s Batman: Year Two. He’ll get to the point where his mistakes are more rare and less obvious, no doubt — but he’s not there yet. Combining this aspect of the character and the nascent social life and you’ve got a lot of fodder for character growth.

I’ve recently started reading (for those who don’t read every post) the John Rebus books, plugging my way through the 30 years of history of the character. I’ve received various encouragements from long-time Rebus readers to stick with it, the best is yet to come (not that I was in any danger of dropping it), and that I was reading something special. I can easily see myself giving similar encouragement to someone just starting these books in a decade or so. Isaiah is one of those characters that I can see myself reading for years to come. Between Isaiah and Dodson as characters, and Ide’s style and skill — this series is one to read.

—–

4 Stars
2017 Library Love Challenge

IQ by Joe Ide

IQIQ

by Joe Ide
Series: IQ, #1

Hardcover, 321 pg.
Mulholland Books, 2016

Read: September 18 – 19, 2017


The book opens with a criminal in the making, and a very slapstick-y incident. But even while grinning about that, you get the sense that this character isn’t going to be good for more laughs. He’s not — but thankfully, we don’t have to spend a lot of time on him, because Isaiah Quintabe (a.k.a. IQ) finishes his blossoming criminal career. Which is very effective way to introduce Isaiah, the unlicensed investigator, and his world to readers.

After this, we spend some more time with our modern-day Sherlock of South Central LA. He needs money, not another case that he takes on in return for some homemade cookies or something, he’s got a couple of big bills heading his way and requires cash to take care of things. His need for an infusion of cash forces him to align himself with a former friend (there’s a very good reason for that “former”) with a tie to a well-paying client. The client is a famous rapper who is convinced that someone is trying to kill him — he happens to be right, I should add, which makes the book a lot more interesting. (obviously, an investigator looking into a paranoid delusion isn’t going to be as action-packed as one looking into a person actually trying to kill someone). This investigation will bring Isaiah and Dodson into the not-as-lucrative-as-it-used-to-be music industry, into marital problems, petty jealousies, and a whole lot closer to pit bulls than at least one of them wants to be. The case is at once a showcase for Isaiah’s talents and something almost too complex for him.

We also get a series of flashbacks to the events that set Isaiah on this path, how he honed his natural abilities and inclinations to become the man he his — an unlicensed PI that helps out people in his neighborhood, many of whom wouldn’t turn to the authorities. So often with a Sherlock-type character, we just get the finished product — the Great Detective at the height of his powers, knowing all sorts of arcane information. But Ide shows us how Isaiah gets this information, how he earned it, improved his reasoning and observation skills. Also the why behind it all — why didn’t Isaiah take his genius into something that would make him more money? Why does he stay where he is? The flashbacks also show us Dodson and Isaiah meeting and falling out.

The two stories intertwine and are pretty equally intriguing, which is a real bonus.

There’s what seems to be an authenticity to the world Ide portrays — honestly, what do I know about the realities of LA? But it sure feels real, so either way, I guess Ide did his job. The characters — all of them, the good, the bad, the creepy, the slimy and everyone else are wonderfully conceived and executed. The crimes depicted are varied sophisticated (making them worth Isaiah’s time) — and at least one method of assassination is something I’ve never seen before. Ide does a great job of balancing the moods at work, the grim, the hopeful, the silly and all points in between.

There’s a passage in this book that is one of the best brief pieces of writing I’ve read this year, period. As I reread it (at least 5 times), I kept thinking of the Fiction Writing professors I had in college that would’ve made us study it for at least one class session. It’s during the “origin” portion, where Isaiah’s Geometry teacher is explaining inductive reasoning — these four paragraphs give you a strong character, setting, tone, a minor character (and even a brief storyline), a good idea what she looks like, her past, her relationship with her husband — and you get a good working definition of inductive reasoning, too! It’s really great.

This year (most recently, last week), I’ve also talked about another modern Sherlock — Victor Locke. How would I compare the two of these? There’s some similarities, and more than a few differences. At the end of the day, Victor Locke is a lot more amusing and entertaining. Isaiah, on the other hand, I could believe was real (I know he’s not, don’t worry). Isaiah is driven, he’s brilliant, he’s proud, he’s haunted, he has no obvious addictions (phew! wonderful change), he’s a bit more grounded than your typical Holmes-type. Dodson is the least John Watson-y Watson-figure you’ve ever seen, more of a hindrance than an assistant. Thankfully, also he’s not a narrator, and I’m not sure I could’ve handled a book from his point-of-view. It’s hard to summarize, but he works really well in this role.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end, with not a dull moment in between. Isaiah Quintabe is a keeper, and I’m already counting the days until his next book.

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4 Stars
2017 Library Love Challenge