The last time readers saw Jo Ide’s crusading private detective Isaiah Quintabe, also known as IQ, (In last year’s Hi Five) he was fleeing Los Angeles having crossed too many powerful enemies. It was refreshing to think that Ide was going to once again blow up his premise by putting IQ in a new situation. No longer a local private eye, IQ was going to have to reinvent himself, while still dealing with the ghosts of his past. But as the latest IQ novel Smoke shows, that process is not easy for IQ or for the people he loves.
After five books, Ide has become comfortable with the IQ series being an ensemble piece. Plots involving IQ’s former partner Juanelle Dodson, his ex girlfriend Grace and his old friend Deronda take up as much time in novel and it in no way suffers as a result. In fact, if anything it highlight IQ’s plight in that he is separated from the lives and troubles of his family and friends. Meanwhile, unable to stay out of trouble, IQ ends up in a Northern Californian town called Coronado Springs helping a young man called Billy who has escaped from an institution and is sure that he knows the identity of a notorious serial killer. He believes it is a man called Crowe and knows that Crowe is on his way to Coronado Springs to help settle an old score, followed by Billy’s friend Ava who’s sister was one of the serial killer’s victims.
Smoke is another engaging, page turning entry in this always entertaining series. In turns tense and violent, the narrative can also be laugh out loud funny in points, particularly in the sections relating to Dodson’s preparations to start a real job in an advertising company. Ide makes you care about all of these characters. He puts roadblocks in their way and generates tension out of their desire to both succeed and, if they can, do the right thing, while also dealing with a world which is not even remotely that fair. IQ himself continues to develop as a character, in this volume realising that he is suffering from PTSD, something that readers who have been with him since the beginning will completely understand.
Given this is at least a partial reinvention of some of the main characters, Smoke can possibly be read as a stand alone. But it does deal with a number of longer running plot lines and recurring characters, and at least some of the action here builds on those plot lines and characters. So that those who have been keeping up with the series will definitely not be disappointed. Those that haven’t will still enjoy Smoke and are likely to go back to the beginning while they wait for the next book and the resolution of a cliffhanger ending.