Review by New York Times Review
IT'S ONLY A STORY - or is it? Graeme Macrae Burnet makes such masterly use of the narrative form that the horrifying tale he tells in HIS BLOODY PROJECT (Skyhorse, $24.99), a finalist for this year's Man Booker Prize, seems plucked straight out of Scotland's sanguinary historical archives. Presented as a collection of "Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae," which took place in 1869, the novel includes the jailhouse memoir of a 17-year-old Scottish Highlander being held in Inverness Castle, awaiting trial for three appalling murders. Roderick and his family brave feudal conditions, toiling as tenant farmers on a small allotment, harvesting peat for fuel and scavenging seaweed to fertilize their gardens. It's a hard existence, made even harder by Lachlan Mackenzie, a vindictive constable who systematically strips the Macraes of their livelihood. When father and son bravely take their grievances to the factor, the man charged with running the estate on behalf of the laird, he cruelly dismisses their request to see the regulations they're accused of violating. "The reason you may not ?see' the regulations is because there are no regulations," he informs them. "You might as well ask to see the air we breathe." After being goaded beyond endurance, Roderick seeks out his tormentor while carrying a croman (a pickax) and a flaughter (a pointed spade), "merely to discover what would happen if I paid a visit to his house thus armed." At moments like this, we begin to suspect that Roderick isn't the most trustworthy of narrators. For a "semiliterate peasant," he has recorded a testament so "sustained and eloquent" that the Edinburgh literati suspect a hoax. Not so Roderick's lawyer, Andrew Sinclair, who marvels at the prisoner's graceful writing and command of language even as he's sickened by the conditions under which people like the Macraes must toil. But the lawyer's defense may not be enough to counter the contemptuous testimony of men like the bigoted prison surgeon, J. Bruce Thomson, who contributes his own sour observations to the medical reports and witness statements presented in court. Thomson's examination of the prisoner confirms his view that criminal behavior is determined by heredity. In Macrae's case, though, what might be inherited is sheer desperation. INTRODUCING HIS first novel, IQ (Mulholland/Little, Brown, $26), Joe Ide recalls his youth as a Japanese resident of an African-American neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. Living between cultures (and, no doubt, for self-preservation), he adopted the "speech, style and attitude" of his neighbors, while surviving by the formidable intellect he fancies he shares with his hero, Sherlock Holmes. That description also applies to Isaiah (IQ) Quintabe, Ide's "unlicensed and undaground" - and wonderfully quirky - detective. The jobs people bring to Isaiah are extremely modest, as are the payments for his services. (He's said to have put one case to bed for some store-bought blueberry muffins.) So the chance to make serious money by smoking out the hit man who has taken aim at a rapper named Black the Knife comes at an opportune time. Other musicians have no respect for Isaiah's new client - "He could spit some but his beats were reruns and his rhymes were tired tired tired," according to a singer called Blasé - which makes this wacky investigation even more challenging. If not for a creepy killer cruising the scene ("Hellooo, Carmela"), the exhilarating language and oddball cast would make this debut a total laff-riot. WITH TANA FRENCH'S characterdriven mysteries, the reader always gets a double feature. In THE TRESPASSER (Viking, $27), one pivotal player is Aislinn Murray, who's dead when the story opens - dressed to the nines, with the back of her head smashed in from an assisted fall to the fireplace hearth. "She looks like Dead Barbie," French tells us. Aislinn's counterpart is the novel's narrator, Antoinette Conway, a prickly officer on the Dublin Murder Squad, who becomes personally caught up in the case. Although French, a fine writer, can be downright eloquent when she wants to, here she uses an abrasive voice to capture this working-class cop's truculent attitude toward the colleagues making her life a misery. Conway's inelegant grammar can grate on the ear, but it won't keep you from enjoying the view as she takes her revenge. "CAN WE PUBLISH a cookbook when the chef who wrote it has been stabbed to death with a butcher's knife?" That question is enough to tell US NO ECHO (Scribner, $26) isn't set in New York, where such a prospect would make most publishers giddy with joy. Of course, Anne Holt's police procedural takes place in her native Norway, and her simpatico detective, Hanne Wilhelmsen, would never be so heartless - especially after she's just spent six months at a monastic retreat mourning the death of her longtime partner. In this polished translation by Anne Bruce, Wilhelmsen quickly puts on her game face when a fellow officer is unable to solve the murder of the celebrity chef whose body has been found at the back door of the Oslo police station. Although Holt isn't a playful writer, her observations on the restaurant business can be downright droll.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [October 23, 2016]
Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Isaiah Quintabe, known as IQ on the mean streets of his East Long Beach neighborhood, is a Sherlock-inspired sleuth (brains over brawn) who takes the cases the cops won't touch. Yet Isaiah's off-the-grid status (unlicensed and underground) and adjustable-rate billing system translate to poor cash flow, which drives him to accept a case he wants no part of: finding out who is trying to kill a superstar rapper and not just any rapper, but one who seems to be going a little bit crazy. First-novelist Ide, whose own background is similar to Isaiah's (bright kid growing up in the ghetto and loving Sherlock for his ability to triumph on intelligence alone), does here what few first novelists can manage: dexterously juggling multiple styles and tones to create a seamless, utterly entertaining blend of coming-of-age saga, old-school detective story, and comic caper novel. Flashbacks reprise IQ's early years including his adored brother's death and IQ's temporary descent into a life of crime and nicely integrated subplots flesh out IQ's relationship with would-be Watson and former partner in crime, Dodson, whose impressive comic chops are sure to be a major draw as this series develops. Best of all, though, is Ide's deft touch with his richly diverse cast of characters, all of whom are capable of stealing scenes with just the right mix of bravado, sly intelligence, sparkling wit, and deeply felt emotion. This is one of those rare debuts that leaves us panting for more and soon.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2016 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Ide successfully makes his detective's brilliance plausible in this gripping and moving debut, which makes effective use of flashbacks. Isaiah Quintabe, whose reasoning scores on the Stanford-Binet intelligence test are near genius levels, has his life upended while in high school in East Long Beach, Calif. His beloved older brother and surrogate parent, Marcus, is killed by a hit-and-run driver, a tragedy that Isaiah witnesses firsthand. Isaiah, who becomes known by his initials because of his intellect, devotes himself to trying to identify the man who killed Marcus. With money running short, Isaiah takes in an unlikely roommate, schoolmate Juanell Dodson, who leads him into a life of crime. Eventually, Isaiah finds his calling on the right side of the law. He develops a reputation as an expert problem solver and takes on a high-profile assignment, to identify the person who ordered an unusual hit on Calvin Wright, the rapper known as Black the Knife. The plot has some over-the-top aspects, but overall the concept works. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Sherlock Holmes comes to South Central Los Angeles. Only hes black, never finished high school, and cant seem to hold on to a regular job.Unlike Holmes or other flamboyant consulting detectives whose powers of ratiocination have held readers imaginations captive since the Victorian era, Isaiah Quintabe, young, gifted, and nonchalantly brilliant, displays few distinguishable quirks beyond a formidable attention span that misses nothing. Well, having a live chicken named Alejandro wandering around his crib may be a little eccentric. But IQ, as hes appropriately known, earned that bird for services rendered as a discreet, unlicensed investigator who finds missing people, recovers stolen property, and unravels puzzles too delicate or perplexing for the LAPD to handle. Business is steady but sluggish, and IQ, goaded by a one-time high school frenemy named Dodson (rhymes with Watson, get it?), agrees to go for bigger bucks in helping to find out whos trying to murder rap idol Calvin Black the Knife Wright, whos undergoing something of an emotional crisis. The list of suspects is, to say the least, eclectic, beginning with Cals ex-wife, Noelle, an ambitious pop diva, and a posse of hangers-on and moneymen, any one of whom might be greedy or vicious enough to sic upon Cal the most monstrously lethal attack dog since the Hound of the Baskervilles. In his debut novel, Ide, a Japanese-American who grew up in the same neighborhood as his mercurial characters, flashes agility with streetwise lingo, facility with local color, and empathy with even the most dissolute of his characters. If theres a problem, its that IQ, for all his brilliance at inductive reasoning (as opposed to deductive; apparently there is a difference), seems at once too removed and too moody for readers to connect with. His origin story, alternating with the main investigation, at times reads like the usual gang-violence melodrama. But the roughhousing energy, vivid language, and serrated wit Ide displays throughout this maiden effort make Isaiah Quintabe seem a potential rejuvenator of a grand literary tradition. The present day, with its high-strung social media and emotional overload, could use a contemporary hero like Ide's, more inclined to use his brain than his mouth (or fists) to vanquish evil and subdue dread. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.