The biggest hurdle for me with this book was the language. I get that the main characters were a couple of black young men living in the not-so-nice area of Los Angeles. The author obviously worked to make them sound “cool” or “street” or whatever is the current vernacular. But I found all the swearing distasteful and rather distracting. I was especially bothered by the nearly constant use of, as one white girl in the story puts it, “the N-word.” I’ve never understood why it is okay for blacks to call each other that word that in all other instances is considered derogatory. Let alone why the Japanese author of this work would be comfortable or compelled to use it.
Linguistics aside, however, this was a fairly decent almost-murder mystery story, as the main characters attempt to discover who ordered a hit on a famous rap star. Apparently, the author developed the narrative as a home-boy take on the traditional Sherlock Holmes story; a fact that I was unaware of until after I had finished reading the book.
"You're on a fool's journey, Mr. Quintabe," Bobby said. "That's okay. I've been a fool before."
The main character, IQ (short for Isaiah Quintabe), is an amateur detective, assisting residents of his neighborhood with the solving of crimes, both big and small, all for whatever they can afford to pay, be it cash or a casserole, or even a live chicken. He’s good at what he does, being blessed with gifts of keen observation and a powerful intellect. IQ is also rather humble and unassuming, which causes many people to underestimate him; and he possesses a dry wit that is quite entertaining.
His sidekick, Dodson, is a hustler, plain and simple, who wants to use IQ to make a big score, one that will have a big payoff for both of them. Only in a series of flashbacks do we learn why there is so much tension between the pair as they work together.
“It’s a hustler’s world, son,” Dodson said, “and if you ain’t doing the hustlin’? Somebody’s hustlin’ you.”
The story alternates between the present and the past in a rather annoying way. One story would just start to develop and then you’d be thrust back into the other one. At least the author did tag each chapter as to what time period it was pertaining to, so that you could try to keep track of what was going on.
I greatly enjoyed the character of IQ, and later even gained something of an appreciation for Dodson. The book served as a good backstory introduction for IQ, and I think that future installments, if there are any, would be able to profit from this, moving forward instead of looking back so much. The narrative was well written, and (aside from all of the swearing) had a good flow to it. But there just wasn’t that much of substance in the actual mystery that the book was centered around, and the ending seemed rather obvious to me well before the characters in the book figured it out.
[H]abits were hard to break. Didn't matter if they were good or bad.
That IQ didn’t even offer Dodson a thank you or give him any credit for being the one to solve the mystery seemed quite odd, especially given how much he worked to follow his own personal code of honor. And the fact that it wasn’t his amazing intellect that cracked the case made all the discussion about his talent seem overblown and rather silly.
I did enjoy the fresh take on the assassin’s weapon of choice, and the research that they put into figuring out who was behind it, as well as how they handled it given the ending events.
Isaiah watched the tape, trying to wrap his head around what he was seeing. Someone sent a dog to kill Cal? Someone used a dog like an assassin. Who would do that?
Overall, a good, entertaining, light mystery; but I think it could have been better. Hopefully, the sequel(s), if there are any, will have more substance to the actual mystery portion.
I received an eBook copy of this title free from NetGalley,
and have willingly provided an honest review.