The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton

WaterRat(House of Anansi, 2011)

An adult fiction pick by Jean-Louis

The Water Rat of Wanchai is the first in Ian Hamilton’s dynamic series of Ave Lee novels. Now on book eight of the series, Hamilton has created a tough and smart character in Ava Lee. Two unique features about this heroine are that she is Canadian (of Chinese heritage) and she is an accountant–forensic accountant that is. Oh, and she is also bilingual, lesbian, and a martial arts expert. Some readers have compared her character to Lisbeth Salander of the Dragon Tattoo novels by Steig Larsson. This is quite a good comparison in my estimation.

Before writing novels, Ian Hamilton worked in international business supplying major customers with fish products from Asia. This background informs the first novel as we follow Ava Lee and her business partner “Uncle” as they assist a client who has been swindled out of a pile of money. Ava Lee uses her forensic abilities to track the cash and then turns up her charm to convince the thieves to return the money. When charm is insufficient she is not above using her knowledge of bak mei, a form of kung fu, to convince the thugs to comply with her wishes. The pay-offs are huge in terms of dollars, and for the reader, the thrills are definitely there as well.

Hamilton fills his novel with fascinating details about Hong Kong, international finance, travel, cuisine, and even fashion. The action is fast and the characters are compelling. With a film deal rumored to be about to blossom into a mini-series of sorts, be sure to read an Ava Lee novel this summer.

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