Sunday, January 23, 2011
THE WATER RAT OF WANCHAI: AN AVA LEE NOVEL by Ian Hamilton (ARC, forthcoming February 2011) House of Anansi Press
Ava Lee is a feisty, intelligent, resourceful and polite 30-year-old forensic accountant from Toronto who happens to be business partners with a septugenarian "Uncle" in Hong Kong who works unofficially on white collar crime and who may or may not have connections to the Chinese Triads.
At first glance, the petite, glamorous Ava seems physically unthreatening (immaculately groomed and fashionably dressed in Chanel), but as someone trained in the ancient and secret martial art of bak mei by Grandmaster Tang, she is her own lethal weapon.
When one of Uncle's old friends persuades him to help his nephew Andrew Tam, Ava is enlisted to find the missing money, a whopping five million dollars. The money trail takes Ava from the comfort of her Toronto condo to Hong Kong and into the arms of katoey culture and corrupt, but helpful, law enforcers. From Hong Kong Ava travels to Guyana where she meets her wily match in Captain Robbins, who also happens to have daughters back in Toronto, attending Havergal College, Ava's boarding school alma mater. Robbins, a former Bajan cop, and one of the few white men in Georgetown, looks and behaves like a mafia godfather. And, Ava is in the precarious position of needing to trust "The Captain" at his word.
Just as Ava is closing the deal with a bank in the British Virgin Islands and hoping to return the missing funds in full to her client in Hong Kong, Captain Robbins, through his equally corrupt and menacing younger brother Jack, turns the tables on her and she finds herself needing to access all of her resources with the hope of making it off the island without her Canadian passport and returning home to Toronto where she'll contemplate taking Uncle's next great case.
In Ava Lee, Ian Hamilton has created an appealing and memorable heroine with a voice as fresh as Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce in his debut novel THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE.
As the first mystery in House of Anansi's SPIDERLINE imprint, THE WATER RAT OF WANCHAI has introduced me to an intelligent, feisty and impeccably polite woman who is sure to have my attention with each subsequent adventure in the Ava Lee series. And, I'll only have to wait until July 2011 to join Ava on her next journey, all of her resources in tact. How clever of Senior Editor Janie Yoon to see the promise in this series. It is sure to become a beloved blockbuster.