A Book Spy Review: ‘Smoke’ by Joe Ide


Isaiah “IQ” Quintabe returns for another go-around in the latest offering from Edgar finalist Joe Ide.

Long Beach has been good to IQ, but it’s also taken a toll on the unorthodox private investigator. Picking up and heading north, IQ leaves his business and life behind as he moves into Coronado Springs, where he hopes to settle down and enjoy some time off. He rents a small, one-bedroom house and sets about recharging—only to have his peaceful move interrupted by Billy Sorensen.

Sorensen, who recently escaped a top neuro-psych facility, breaks into IQ’s pad and claims to be hot on the trail of the notorious AMSAK killer. In fact, Billy is convinced he knows the murderer’s real identity, which, if true, could lead to an arrest. The problem is, IQ can’t tell if his unwanted visitor is crazy good or, well, just plain crazy. Hesitant to investigate given the source, IQ does eventually look into the AMSAK killer, and as fate would have it, he realizes that Billy might be onto something. After all, where there’s smoke there’s fire—and this is just the kind of case that could put Isaiah Quintabe back on the map, even if he’s not entirely sure if that’s what he wants anymore.

Since bursting onto the mystery scene back in 2016 with his hit debut, IQ, Joe Ide has quickly established himself as one of the best crime novelists around. There’s no shortage of Sherlock Holmes knockoffs, but Ide, while offering some similarities, delivers a refreshing take on the often clichéd genius detective protagonist, re-inventing the character as a black, street-smart millennial from Long Beach. Isaiah Quintabe is brilliant, but it’s Ide’s writing that elevates the whole series, with his gritty prose proving to be a perfect fit with the series’ urban setting. Of course, that changes ever so slightly here, but the Coronado Springs setting works well for this particular story, and now five books in, each of Ide’s novels have a distinct feel to them. IQ is the truest mystery of the bunch, whereas his second book (Righteous) took on a psychological thriller-like feel. Book three (Wrecked) has more action than all previous books combined, and last year’s Hi Five brought the unreliable character perspective that the genre has flipped for ever since Gone Girl. In that regard, Smoke is perhaps Ide’s most hard-boiled thriller yet, and without giving anything away, it’s clear that the author continues to find new ways to keep his series fresh while also keeping readers on their toes.

A side plot involving the fan-favorite character Juanell Dodson allows Ide to flash his expert ability to develop his cast, even if it takes a while to see where that thread is going.

Joe Ide does not disappoint with his latest IQ thriller, Smoke, bringing a new vibe and setting that his fans will surely enjoy. If you’ve yet to discover this series, don’t wait any longer.

Book Details

Author: Joe Ide
Series: IQ #5
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0316531065
Publisher: Mulholland Booka
Release Date: February 23, 2021
Real Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. Additionally, he co-hosts ThrillerTalk, a new podcast with author K.J. Howe. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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