Isaiah Quintabe’s latest case is a matter of perspectives…
One woman. Five personalities. Private investigator IQ is back to piece together a Newport Beach murder with an eyewitness who gives “people person” a whole new meaning.
Christiana is the daughter of the biggest arms dealer on the West Coast, Angus Byrne. She’s also the sole witness and number one suspect in the murder of her boyfriend, found dead in her Newport Beach boutique. Isaiah Quintabe is coerced into taking the case to prove her innocence. If he can’t, Angus will harm the brilliant PI’s new girlfriend, ending her career.
The catch: Christiana has multiple personalities. Among them, a naïve, beautiful shopkeeper, an obnoxious drummer in a rock band, and a wanton seductress.
Isaiah’s dilemma: no one personality saw the entire incident. To find out what really happened the night of the murder, Isaiah must piece together clues from each of the personalities… before the cops close in on him.
In IQ’s latest outing, Long Beach’s favourite private detective finds himself wandering into the world of gun running, murder, and a rather unique suspect. Another good book in the series.
[As with my recent review of Wrecked, there are some minor spoilers in this review for previous novels in the series.]
In Hi Five, Isaiah gets roped into a deadly case involving white supremacists, gun runners, and the Korean gangs. His sense of justice and purpose are tested like never before, as his friends and family are directly threatened. He makes some questionable choices, pushing the envelope further than he has before, and taking increasingly dangerous risks. He’s not happy about these choices, many of which cross the line. He’s really put through the ringer as he tries to solve the case and protect his loved ones.
Ide writes about the sinister threat posed by American white supremacism very well: the moral and character rot it engenders, the way its poison can infect later generations, and also its illogical underpinnings. (Can’t help but feel sympathy and root for Chip, in this novel.) The author touches upon the boost that white supremacists have received since Trump’s election, as one of his characters ponders:
He was optimistic about the future. That was the one thing you could thank Obama for. He was a rallying cry for white nationalists all across the country. Hugo was a registered user on Stormfront, a white nationalist website. When Obama became president there were thirty thousand new users, and that was one website. One. You project that out to the rest of the country and there were millions of other white nationalists out there; Charlottesville was a call to action. It was time to get serious, quit hiding in the fucking toolies. They were mainstream now. I mean if the goddamn president of the United States is on your side and calls you a very fine person and if governors and state legislators and high-ranking officials were keeping the niggers and Mexicans out of the voting booth, well, hell, what the fuck were you waiting for?
This novel, perhaps more than previous books in the series, focus more on contemporary issues — in addition to American white supremacism, there’s plenty of commentary about crime (in LA in particular), the lasting effects of lives characterized by violence, and gang culture and its pull on America’s youth…
Isaiah was on the fence about growing up hard, whether it was a reason or pretext for being a criminal. The difference between Stella and Ponlok weren’t their financial struggles, gang temptations, bad schools, or fewer opportunities. It was their families. A kid deprived of love, that kernel of what makes us human, will grow up stunted and mean and might well become the leader of a Cambodian street gang. Grow up loved and nourished and you might well become first chair in the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. It reminded Isaiah of Angus, his favorite son, Tyler, thriving and esteemed, and the neglected ones, Sidero and Dwight, eating themselves alive with hatred and self-loathing.
… and also plenty of stuff about American gun culture, and the rampant crime connected to it:
“I’m telling you, this gun shit is getting out of hand,” Dodson said. “I was over at Raphael’s crib buyin’ some weed? Three of them East Side Longos was there and check dis. They all had brand new Berettas, that compact model? Julio said the whole damn gang has them. They bought them like team jerseys.”
Isaiah’s best friend, Dodson returns. Their friendship has become strained, however, after a series of ever-more dangerous encounters and cases. With a new baby, a need to find a legitimate job with a steady salary, and a drive-by killing of a local store owner, Dodson finds himself experiencing a certain amount of existential angst. He’s not sure what his life is meant to be, but he’s sure there’s supposed to be more to it than he has. (And maybe it should be much safer…) Nevertheless, his bond with IQ draws him into this latest case.
Other series regulars return, each in their own way. Deronda, Dodson’s sometime business partner, is thriving and offers an embarrassed Dodson a menial job. TK, the owner of the junkyard that Isaiah frequents for car parts, has a good side plot. Grace, Isaiah’s love interest from Wrecked, returns and complicates his life (the novel is set two years after the previous one). Each other them adds more details and depth to Isaiah’s slice of Los Angeles. There are also some seeds planted for future books, I’m sure.
I found Hi Five to be not quite as gripping as the other novels in the series, but still enjoyable. As with the others, Ide gives plenty of space in the novel to his other characters, and IQ doesn’t dominate the narrative. Each character gets their moment, their POV chapters. It allows them all to feel complete and fully-realized on the page. The villains are appropriately awful, often irredeemably so, and readers will be glad to know that many of them meet their ends in the novel. The good guys are varied, nuanced, and three-dimensional. Isaiah remains one of the more interesting protagonists in crime fiction.
Another good read, then. If you’ve enjoyed the rest of the series, then you should certainly pick up Hi Five. If you’re looking for an engaging, interesting and quirky crime series, then I’d recommend you give Joe Ide’s IQ series a try.