Monday, July 16, 2012

THE RED POLE OF MACAU by Ian Hamilton (from the ARC, forthcoming Sept 2012) House of Anansi Press, 304 pages

Ian Hamilton's Ava Lee novel series is fast becoming a favourite of mine in the crime fiction genre. Ava Lee is a contemporary heroine. She's a forensic accountant who happens to be trained in bak mei, a sophisticated, violent martial art, typically taught one-on-one, a mentor passing on its secrets to his student. She is also a private school-educated, stunning lesbian, as comfortable in her bespoke blouses, pencil skirts, stilettos, chic chignon and Chanel lipstick as she is in her running gear.

Although you can read any of these books in isolation, Hamilton threads the series together by referring back to the previous one in the opening pages of the newest one. So, you will know that Ava has recently (only a few days ago) completed a job with her Hong Kong business partner Uncle for the "most powerful business team in Wuhan City," Changxing and May Ling Wong. The deal involved pursuing "people who had foisted more than a dozen forged Fauvist paintings on them, paintings with a value of close to $80 million." How Ava managed to find the perpetrators and persuade them to return the money they had stolen is the heart of The Wild Beasts of Wuhan. And, although the fee Ava and Uncle receive is a generous 30% of what they recover, she seems unaffected by her burgeoning bank account.

In The Red Pole of Macau, the stakes are raised for Ava when her half brother Michael calls her and pleads for her help. It seems he and his Millennium Food partner Simon To have gotten themselves in a real fix with corrupt investors at Ma Shing Realty Corporation, and their bank has come calling, threatening to destroy everything they have worked so diligently to build. Soon, it becomes clear to Ava that negotiating with members of a triad is going to be more difficult than she had expected. So, she enlists Uncle's help as well as her steadfast muscle support in Sonny, Carlo and Andy, clever men she can trust with her life. May Ling Wong in her selfish need to broker a personal Taoist peace with Ava also becomes involved and her connections prove essential.

In addition to being a smart, entertaining, fast-paced read, each book is also part travelogue of an intimate section of south-east Asia. Go along for the ride. Cheer for feisty, fabulous, ass-kicking Ava Lee as she unloads perfectly timed bak mei on the bad guys. You'll be glad you did.

Follow Ian Hamilton on Twitter @avaleebooks. And, check out his website for upcoming appearances and forthcoming novels:  The fifth in the series will be out in February 2013. Watch for Ava Lee in The Scottish Banker of Surabaya then. I know I will.

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