The Water Rat of Wanchai, by Ian Hamilton

The Water Rat of Wanchai, by Ian Hamilton

Forensic accounting meets Kill Bill in the form of compelling heroine Ava Lee

Ready for a breathtaking rush starting with multi-million dollar purchase orders and dodgy accounting practices (um … ho hum?), segueing to financial transactions of varying legitimacy and 24/7 international banking activities bouncing from Toronto to Seattle to Hong Kong to the British Virgin Islands (hmm, OK …), sharply punctuated with more than a dash of Kill Bill (what …???) You’re in for a singular and suspenseful globetrotting ride with Ava Lee, one-of-a-kind forensic accountant and collections expert employing unique accounts receivable practices. Ava is the compelling heroine of The Water Rat of Wanchai, the first in an eagerly anticipated crime fiction series from Ian Hamilton.

Ava Lee is a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who specializes in recovering large debts. She works closely with a Hong Kong-based “uncle” who is extensively connected, possibly with the Chinese criminal underworld. In The Water Rat of Wanchai, Ava takes on an assignment to retrieve money swindled from a business financing substantial purchase orders for a seafood distribution company supplying a major US retailer. A fairly straightforward case necessitating perhaps some minor negotiating and intimidation swiftly becomes complicated and possibly deadly when Ava runs up against and struggles to hold her own against a Caribbean-based crime kingpin who is seemingly business-like and even charming, but also amoral and menacing.

The Water Rat of Wanchai is a brisk, entertaining read. There is sufficient detail to capture the essence of every global stop in Ava’s journey, from Toronto to the British Virgin Islands. The storyline touches just the right amount on but is never too heavily freighted with the technicalities of the transactions along the way. The action is explosive whenever it occurs, is never couched in a fashion too unsettling for even the mildly squeamish, but is still offered up in suitably brutal and authentic form. The suspense is well concocted and genuine.

Hamilton obviously adores his intelligent and refreshingly self-aware heroine, and she quickly captivates the reader. Her resourcefulness, aplomb and, where necessary, outright sangfroid has brilliant flashes of other singular and often cinematic heroines, from Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick to Uma Thurman’s unforgettable Beatrix Kiddo. Still, Ava Lee is ultimately her own unique being, and Hamilton leaves the reader wanting more of her and wanting to learn more about this enigmatic and forceful young woman.

How wonderful then to know that Hamilton and House of Anansi Press has astutely set the Ava Lee story in motion with four books queued up. A second book will appear this summer, and two more are slated for 2012. The Ava Lee series is the first offering of a new House of Anansi Press crime fiction imprint called Spiderline, and things are clearly off to a strong start.

Hamilton has left numerous doors enticingly ajar to further explore Ava’s family and personal life, get to know more of her professional associates and perhaps contend with repeat engagements with those with whom she’s tangled in this first installment. For example, Ava’s work associate Derek remains largely offstage in this book, but it would be intriguing to see him onstage in future installments. At any rate, readers captivated by this first encounter with Ava Lee won’t have long to wait.

Thank you to House of Anansi Press for providing a review copy of The Water Rat of Wanchai, by Ian Hamilton.

3 thoughts on “The Water Rat of Wanchai, by Ian Hamilton

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