The Name’s IQ:
Isaiah Quintabe, better known as IQ, is an unlicensed private eye and the hero of Joe Ide’s crime series, the fourth of which, a hugely entertaining Hi Five is out (Note to self: read the other three.)
IQ lives in the mostly non-white working class neighbourhood of East Long Beach, carved up into vicious gangs belonging to different ethnic groups. They usually do not step on rivals’ territories, but when anyone breaks a rule, all restraints are off. IQ, who is generally a peaceable sort, does not even pack a gun and works towards “fighting human suffering and indifference,” is not above tracing an old lady’s dog, or getting back his musician girlfriend Stella’s stolen violin.
When he is forcibly presented before Angus Byrne, a gun dealer he despises, he is caught in the midst of violence, the latest victim of which is Beaumont, a friend and corner shop owner, hit in a drive-by shootout between a Cambodian cartel and the Starks, a white supremacist gang. Ide writes of IQ, that he hated the term random violence “as if it were an anomaly, worrisome only if you were unlucky, and not a plague on the community that infected everyone with the belief that killings were an ordinary part of life.”
Byrne wants IQ to help clear his daughter, Christiana, of a murder charge before she is arrested for murder. The dead man, Tyler Barnes, was Byrne’s right-hand man, and was shot while being fitted for a bespoke suit at Christiana’s fancy boutique. IQ is forced to accept the case, or Byrne threatens to get his goons to break Stella’s fingers, so that she can never play the violin again, a career she built with tremendous effort.
IQ knows he cannot protect Stella round the clock and the threat strains the relationship. To complicate his life further, his ex-girlfriend, artist Grace Monarova, suddenly returns from an unexplained absence in New Mexico.
The romantic triangle is still manageable, what IQ discovers when he meets Christiana, is that she suffers from multiple personality disorder. She has five alter egos or “alters” all of whom (two male!) saw part of the murder and IQ is handed the near impossible task of piecing the incident together from bizarre statements by the five alters.
Around IQ’s hassles, other subplots prance—his former partner Juanell Dodson, having trouble in his marriage, turns up to serve as the sidekick IQ does not want; TK, the kindly owner of a wrecking yard, sets out to woo a tetchy woman (and Dodson’s mother-in-law), by crashing her book club, though he has never read a book in his life.
Then, there are the Starks hotheads, and Byrne’s much-abused henchmen, with back stories of their own–the characters and their dialogue reminiscent of Elmore Leonard’s colourful lowlifes. To top off the overall craziness is a stolen Gatling gun, which all the gangs covet.
There are some pacing problems as the subplots overwhelm the central story, but, Hi Five has a wonderful blend of humour and humanism; IQ is an inimitable character—the kind who literally jumps into a sewer to save the life of his enemy.
By Joe Ide
Pages: 341 pages