The author shows off his screenwriting chops in "Wrecked," the third novel in the series; the dialogue is clever and Ide knows how to stage an action scene.

Share story

Book review

Joe Ide spent almost a decade as a Hollywood screenwriter, selling scripts, doing rewrites and never getting anything produced. But he did learn a few tricks that have served him well as a crime novelist.

The first is the one-sentence concept, the ability to explain what your story is about in a few words. It might seem reductive, but those studio executives are busy and want something the audience can understand. (“Snakes on a Plane” is the classic example.) Ide’s one-sentence concept takes Sherlock Holmes’ obsessive-compulsive quest for justice and combines it with his own background growing up in South Central Los Angeles.

The result is Isaiah Quintabe, a neighborhood detective in East Long Beach who accepts Christmas sweaters and carpet cleanings as payment and goes by the punchy nickname “IQ” — also the title of the first in Ide’s exciting mystery series.

IQ is a loner who follows his own path but has a ragtag group of friends similar to the Baker Street Irregulars in the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Over the course of three novels, Ide’s also developing Juanell Dodson into a Dr. Watson to IQ’s Holmes, much to the surprise of the East Long Beach locals who remember Dodson from his days selling counterfeit Gucci bags.

“IQ” (2016) introduced the title character as young, moody and smarter than everyone he meets — and introduced Ide as a lively writer with a smart-aleck streak. “IQ” won three major awards for best first novel, the Shamus, Macavity and Anthony. Ide followed it up with “Righteous,” which sees IQ heading to Las Vegas on a quest to avenge his brother’s death.

“Wrecked,” the third novel in the series, finds IQ back in East Long Beach, lonely and more conflicted than ever. Some veterans of Abu Ghraib are trying to recover incriminating photos while Dodson’s trying to recover an incriminating porn tape. (In screenwriting, this is known as the A plot and the B plot.) There’s mayhem and wisecracking, and everybody ends up at Burning Man.

Ide has a few more screenwriting tools at his disposal. His dialogue is clever and advances the narrative, and he knows how to stage an action scene. Some of his locations are a little too obviously camera-ready — a junkyard, a warehouse, the big rave-up at Burning Man — but the people who bought the TV rights surely won’t mind. (They also made “House of Cards.”)

The IQ series doesn’t have the depth and sweep of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels — not yet, anyway — but Ide is following Mosley’s lead in using an unlicensed detective in Greater Los Angeles to tell a larger story about who we are and how we live. IQ has a little more Sherlock Holmes in him than Easy does, but both have a quiet confidence that says they know where they’re going and how to get there.


“Wrecked” by Joe Ide, Little, Brown, 343 pp., $27