Isaiah Quintabe is back with a couple of dynamite cases. IQ ended with Isaiah stumbling upon the car that killed his brother. So about half of this book is devoted to Isaiah's renewed efforts to find the man who killed his brother. He quickly concludes that Marcus was not killed in an accident, as he'd believed and the police had included. Rather, it's pretty clear to him that Marcus was targeted by the driver. So now, Isaiah starts digging -- he finds more suspects than he'd prefer, and he starts to have some questions about Marcus's lifestyle/livelihood.
That story alternates with an actual paying case -- Marcus' girlfriend (and the object of Isaiah's teenaged affections) comes calling for Isaiah's help. Her little sister, a gambling addict, and her equally addicted boyfriend are in trouble -- they've got a Loan Shark gunning for them, and have resorted to some freakishly stupid lengths to get the money they need to get him off their case. These lengths have made them the target of some of the nastiest, deadliest, coldest criminals you've ever read. So, Isaiah and Dodson head to Vegas to help them. Dodson is fairly assertive here, not wanting to be relegated to sidekick and PR status, but to been seen as an equal to Isaiah -- more of an Elementary's Joan Watson than Doyle's John, without the student-vibe (or Dr. Eric Foreman to Dr. House . . . ugh, there are just too many versions of Holmes to walk an unbeaten path). Which is not to suggest that Ide's blossoming partnership here is just a retread or a rehash, Dodson just reminds me of Joan a little. There's a dynamic between these two that you don't often see in detective duos, outside of police shows where two are forced to work together -- a mix of partnership, antagonism, respect, and rivalry.
So why does Isaiah bring him along? Because he's growing as a person, realizing that he needs social connections, other people in his life -- he has a new dog, but that's not enough. There's even a longing for something like Dodson's new family. His work, his trying to make something out of the wreck his life became after Marcus' death -- that's not enough (nor is it finished) -- he wants people around, and Dodson's the first step.
There's a couple of criminals wandering around Vegas making life horrible for several people that I'd love to see again -- [spoiler] we won't, and they got what they deserved -- but man, I enjoyed them so much. All the "bad guys" (and, wow, were there a lot of them) were much more than your typical mystery novel baddies (even really well-written ones!). They were fully fleshed-out, individuals, with believable (and contradictory) self-interests and motivations.
As compelling as the baddies are, Isaiah is better. And in this book (like IQ) we see one of the ways that Ide is superior to Arthur Conan Doyle. In A Study in Scarlet, we see Holmes as the successful version of himself -- on the verge of being a legend, really. Like Athena fully formed, emerging from Zeus' skull. But IQ is still learning, still fallible -- yes, he's achieved a large measure of success and notoriety, but he's still making mistakes. He's good, but he needs more discipline, more patience, less ego, etc. In Righteous, as in IQ, we get the equivalent of Miller's Batman: Year One and Barr's Batman: Year Two. He'll get to the point where his mistakes are more rare and less obvious, no doubt -- but he's not there yet. Combining this aspect of the character and the nascent social life and you've got a lot of fodder for character growth.
I've recently started reading (for those who don't read every post) the John Rebus books, plugging my way through the 30 years of history of the character. I've received various encouragements from long-time Rebus readers to stick with it, the best is yet to come (not that I was in any danger of dropping it), and that I was reading something special. I can easily see myself giving similar encouragement to someone just starting these books in a decade or so. Isaiah is one of those characters that I can see myself reading for years to come. Between Isaiah and Dodson as characters, and Ide's style and skill -- this series is one to read.