Righteous by Joe Ide

Read  January 2018
   
★    ★    ★    1/2

This is a good book; don’t let my rating fool you. After all, what are ratings? A momentary reflection on the enjoyment of a read, a statement on the overall quality of the book, an assessment of value, or a comparison to an author’s other works? On any given day, I may rate according to any one of those things, while attempting to explain why in my review. Onward, then.

Isiah, known locally as ‘IQ,’ is contacted out of the blue by Sarita, the woman who had been dating his brother in the years before he died. Her call shakes him from his depression after discovering the car involved in his brother’s hit-and-run and realizing that it was intentional, a homicide. Sarita is worried about her half-sister, Janine, a DJ and gambling addict who lives in Vegas and claims she’s in trouble. This time, IQ asks Dodson along, who has been busy trying to go straight in the food truck business while supporting his very-pregnant girlfriend Cherise. As always, they discover more than they expected in Vegas after the sister’s boyfriend attempts blackmail. At the same time, the narrative follows IQ as he works his brother’s case and his last steps in the weeks before his death.

Although reviewers often dub IQ as ‘Sherlock-style,’ there really is only the faintest resemblance to the Coyle stories. In this book, the action is considerably amped up, and IQ’s deductions are primarily in service of rescues and not in solving a mystery. There’s also a dual timeline, with IQ’s earlier investigation into his brother’s murder intermixed into his trip to Vegas to assist Janine.

“Janine is a serial liar, and hopefully it’s a story she made up to get money from me. She’s done it many times before. On the other hand, she might be telling the truth and if she is, she’ll need help–oh, I’m sorry, Isaiah, I’m just assuming you’ll drop everything you’re doing and go.”

One of the challenges for me was that Ide uses a limited third-person narrative, giving the reader gets perspectives from virtually everyone in the story. Personal perspective from Dodson, Janine, a store clerk, her boyfriend Benny, Janine’s father, the loan shark, a local gangbanger, a local gang leader, etc. all serve to confuse the story line and create distance between the reader and the characters. On the one hand, this choice does give the reader some insight as to the motivation, potentially humanizing those choosing a life of crime. On the other hand, it is so many people that it is hard to care about one person in particular. Furthermore, I’m not sure it was successful. I felt like the perspective just convinced me the person in question was an asshole, making it hard to appreciate IQ’s efforts.

I felt mildly guilty not enjoying this more. Ide’s a solid writer and to be honest, I think he is using a technique very few authors could pull off. The overall quality of the writing is very high, far above the average mystery; really edging into literary fiction. A little stuck on what didn’t work, I happened to open Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead, another kind of mystery/ lit-fic that solves a mystery while looking at life in the underclass, hoping for more insight. I think a limited perspective would have helped a great deal. Ide could have put more of the information into dialogue, bringing the characters to life, or left it out altogether. My guess is, however, that he likely wanted to humanize some of the criminal stereotypes used. Dodson provides much of the comic relief, but in some ways, that’s a stereotype too.

I think changing emphasis on the story lines and concentrating on IQ’s brother’s murder and his resulting personal development could have done some amazing things. Greater focus on IQ might have let more opportunities for humor to creep in as well, because IQ mostly seems grim and irascible. While I appreciate his awareness of his contradictory impulses, it felt very tiring after a bit. He’s so young, and still struggling with the fallout of the murder that the plot with Sarita and Janine felt like a distraction from the emotional weight of the real case.

“Much of the guild he’d been carrying around for years had lifted and feelings were surfacing that he’d always ignored. He was lonely. He wanted friends… He wanted to have fun, not that he knew how. Inviting Dodson to come along was a bold step for him.”

Overall then, a middling kind of read, partially because Ide set the bar quite high in IQ. Still, I’ll be looking forward to the next book.

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About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Book reviews, Mystery and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Righteous by Joe Ide

  1. alicegristle says:

    Interesting! Have you read anything else by Ide?

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