"Righteous" (Mullholland Books), by Joe Ide
The search for the truth can be righteous; so can helping someone who feels powerless. Even anger can be righteous as unofficial private detective Isaiah "IQ" Quintabe learns in Joe Ide's excellent second novel, "Righteous."
Introduced in last year's Edgar-nominated, Shamus-winning novel "IQ," Isaiah was nicknamed the "hip-hop Sherlock Holmes" for his acute keen observations about those who needed his help in his east Long Beach, California, neighborhood. As good as "IQ" was — and it was terrific — "Righteous" takes a deeper look at Isaiah, delving into what has shaped this young African-American man and allowing the character to mature.
While not a note of hip-hop or rap music enters the story, "Righteous" hums to a solid beat of strong characters and an engrossing plot. As the "neighborhood detective," Isaiah lends his sleuthing skills to help old ladies find a costume brooch or a middle-school science club being bullied, often being repaid with blueberry muffins. But his isolated, "circle of one" life is beginning to grate on him, especially since the one case he cannot solve is the 8-year-old hit-and-run death of his older brother, Marcus. Isaiah renews his search for the driver when he finally locates the car in a junkyard. Isaiah's anger over his brother's death accelerates when he realizes Marcus was targeted. Still broiling in his "righteous" anger and hate, Isaiah gets a call from Marcus' old girlfriend Sarita Van, on whom he'd always had a crush. Sarita wants Isaiah to find her younger half-sister Janine, a popular Las Vegas DJ whose gambling addition has put her and her "idiot" boyfriend, Benny, in jeopardy. The case pits Isaiah and his friend Juanell Dobson against a heartless loan shark, a shady money launderer, a violent Chinese gang and a soulless human trafficking enterprise.
Ide keeps "Righteous" on a righteous path of compelling storytelling, allowing his characters to flourish while exploring the worst of human nature. Never once does "Righteous" go over the top as Ide keeps each plot point chillingly realistic. Isaiah's Holmesian skills get a workout, proving him to be both a cerebral thinker and a man of action. He doesn't want to fight, but he can, and is generally quite good at it. Well-placed banter between Isaiah and Dobson adds much-needed humor.
Ide's debut "IQ" showed what a skillful writer he is. "Righteous" elevates the author — and his characters — to a new level.