Written by Joe Ide

Review written by Judith Sullivan

Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.

W & N an imprint of Orion Publishing
RRP: £14.99
Released: February 22 2018

Righteous is the second instalment in the much lauded IQ series. It has the clever vibe of a story Arthur Conan Doyle and Walter Mosley might have jointly concocted, had they met up.

IQ is Isiah Quintabe, a socially shy, awkward around women super-smart private detective living in the crime ridden town of East Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. IQ ekes out a living providing services that seem more like personal favours than proper investigations – he retrieves missing jewellery and intimidates bush-league stalkers into desistance. Not really material for a Marylebone lifestyle.

While East Long Beach is a character in its own right, the real action kicks off hundreds of miles away in Las Vegas, where we meet two losers in all departments (life, dignity, self-respect but most of all - in the casinos). Janine Van and her boyfriend Benny are not compulsive gamblers but hopelessly addicted ones. The rush of the roulette table and nickel machines are more important to them than food, sex, family or cleanliness.

Their tab with usurer Leo is steep and their capacity to repay zero. As a first warning Benny is dumped into landfill in a highly comical and very sad early chapter. Janine sees no recourse but to first hit up her gangster father Ken Van for money (though she knows it’s a long shot). So she does what any DJ-gambler-woman in love would; she filches electronic data from her father that she plans to use as blackmail material. And she soon disappears.

Janine has a half-sister Sarita, a far cry from her own nature as she is responsible, Stanford-educated and determined to make a proper life for herself. She is also the “widow” to Isiah’s older brother Marcus, killed in a car crash a decade before the plot to Righteous kicks in. The exact cause of the young man’s mysterious death remain a mystery but that is not why Sarita taps her boyfriend’s younger brother. He practically pole-vaults to come to Sarita’s aid when she asks for assistance in tracking down the vanished Janine.  Marcus was not the only Qunitabe to be madly in love with Sarita. Isiah has been nursing a crush on the young lawyer for many years and is more than happy to get close.

This all sets off a high-jinks plot worthy of Tarantino at his best, and one Elmore Leonard would’ve blessed. Characters race and run, wield guns, eat dreadful food and low-IQ goons employ increasingly stupid ruses to outsmart the other guy. The cast hails from a uniquely American medley of sources – Triad villains, escapees from Rwanda, members of the Hispanic Locos gang, working-class, church-going black people.

IQ/Sherlock needs a Doctor Watson and finds him in his best buddy, Dodson (geddit?) a soon-to-be-father and current food truck operator. The friend needs funds to support his coming family and offers his services to a dubious IQ. Isiah, of course, accepts and discovers unknown depths to his bumbling friend. 

This is a novel about friendship, this is a novel about love requited and unrequited, this is a novel about the American melting pot - but primarily Righteous is a novel about “figuring s**t out”. Just as the BBC’s Sherlock reboot provides graphics for the great man’s thought processes, Righteous through action shows us how IQ notices detail, picks up on incongruities, questions everybody’s motives. It is a romp but also an intellectually precise study of how a young man with few resources and fewer funds can solve conundrums.

Just one questions remained unresolved for me – why did Ide not set the book in Bakersfield, California?

In all seriousness, you’ll close IQ a bit breathless, a lot sad, having laughed out loud and fought back a tear or two. But mainly I’ll wager the contents of a slot machine you’ll finish Righteous willing Ide to draft the next instalment in Isiah Quintabe’s adventures.

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