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Ava Lee is a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who works for an elderly Hong Kongbased Uncle, who may or may not have ties to the Triads. At 115 lbs., she hardly seems a threat. But her razorsharp intellect and resourcefulness allows her to succeed where traditional methods have failed. In The Water Rat of Wanchai, Ava travels across continents to track $5 million Ava Lee is a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who works for an elderly Hong Kong–based “Uncle,” who may or may not have ties to the Triads. At 115 lbs., she hardly seems a threat. But her razorsharp intellect and resourcefulness allows her to succeed where traditional methods have failed. In The Water Rat of Wanchai, Ava travels across continents to track $5 million owed by a seafood company. But it’s in Guyana where she meets her match: Captain Robbins, a huge hulk of a man and godfather-like figure who controls the police, politicians, and criminals alike. In exchange for his help, he decides he wants a piece of Ava’s $5 million action and will do whatever it takes to get his fair share . . .


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Ava Lee is a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who works for an elderly Hong Kongbased Uncle, who may or may not have ties to the Triads. At 115 lbs., she hardly seems a threat. But her razorsharp intellect and resourcefulness allows her to succeed where traditional methods have failed. In The Water Rat of Wanchai, Ava travels across continents to track $5 million Ava Lee is a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who works for an elderly Hong Kong–based “Uncle,” who may or may not have ties to the Triads. At 115 lbs., she hardly seems a threat. But her razorsharp intellect and resourcefulness allows her to succeed where traditional methods have failed. In The Water Rat of Wanchai, Ava travels across continents to track $5 million owed by a seafood company. But it’s in Guyana where she meets her match: Captain Robbins, a huge hulk of a man and godfather-like figure who controls the police, politicians, and criminals alike. In exchange for his help, he decides he wants a piece of Ava’s $5 million action and will do whatever it takes to get his fair share . . .

30 review for The Water Rat of Wanchai

  1. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Dd 5/01/2017. Loved the book. Decided to give the rest of the series a try. And I loved it all! I was even ready to forgive my favourite Ava her instant coffee/shirts/pumps of specific firms penchant. I definitely will follow it up and do rereads! And if I manage (at some point!) to get my hands on any translations to my other favourite languages, I will be a one deliriously happy camper! Dd 25/09/2017. Actually, the book (and the series altogether) is freakishly memorable. God, I even started Dd 5/01/2017. Loved the book. Decided to give the rest of the series a try. And I loved it all! I was even ready to forgive my favourite Ava her instant coffee/shirts/pumps of specific firms penchant. I definitely will follow it up and do rereads! And if I manage (at some point!) to get my hands on any translations to my other favourite languages, I will be a one deliriously happy camper! Dd 25/09/2017. Actually, the book (and the series altogether) is freakishly memorable. God, I even started loving more the more mundane jobs of mine, if you can imagine that! BTW, this series needs serious promotion as this could be a best-selling gem if only people heard more about the series! It needs to obtain visibility and more market traction, the rest of the success recipe is already in there! The series is well-researched, with beautifully crafted story lines, flowing language and memorable characters who go a hell of a long way during this series! Dd 2018. I'm halfway through the 10th installment (The Imam of Tawi-Tawi) and it's gonna end sometime real soon! In my desperate attempts to postpone my pangs of the lack of Ava Lee's 11th book induced withdrawal, I decided to reread the #1 once again. When I started this series off, I never would have dared to believe this would turn out to become one of my favourite series ever! Even me, a freaky stickler for details, can find precious few details to grumble about. And it's mostly her coffee and clothing habits, which got a bit ridiculous somewhere near the middle of the series. Those got remediated in the later installments. I feel almost voyeuristic pleasure to watch Ava go and take up all sorts of craziest challenges and get them resolved to utmost astonishment of the rest of the set of characters and satisfaction of the reader. Really, how do you get a boatload of money spent in an online casino back? Ava, obviously, gets it done. Aways. Along the way she never forgets her sports, food, family (professional and social ones), gets the gals, accumulates quite a nest egg for herself and changes careers. Nicely done, Ian! Count me a lifelong sucker for the Ava Lee series! I can only hope this series never ends! So far, can't help rereading it!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joey Comeau

    So, here's the thing. This book is fun, but you have to be willing to ignore a couple annoying quirks. The first, which others have mentioned, is the fact that every single time the main character drinks any coffee, it is STARBUCKS VIA brand instant coffee. The second annoying quirk is the word panties. I find it very hard to believe that A) the main character would refer to her underwear as panties, and B) that it was really necessary to mention said 'panties' quite so often. There were times So, here's the thing. This book is fun, but you have to be willing to ignore a couple annoying quirks. The first, which others have mentioned, is the fact that every single time the main character drinks any coffee, it is STARBUCKS VIA brand instant coffee. The second annoying quirk is the word panties. I find it very hard to believe that A) the main character would refer to her underwear as panties, and B) that it was really necessary to mention said 'panties' quite so often. There were times when I honestly felt like I was reading a book about a Chinese-Canadian lesbian forensic panty accountant, brought to you by Starbucks. OH! Also, it's kind of hilarious how proud the main character seems of being able to remember what time it is somewhere else in the world when making phone calls. But, I enjoyed the book otherwise, and eventually these quirks were just a funny running joke rather than an annoyance. In the final chapter, the author manages to mention both panties and Starbucks VIA instant coffee within the same couple paragraphs. I bet he wrote that page and then sat back and just smiled to himself. "I've done it," he probably thought. "I've written the perfect page."

  3. 5 out of 5

    DeB MaRtEnS

    Yahoo! I've discovered Ian Hamilton, writer of the Ava Lee mystery series, and wondered how on earth I've been in the dark for so long! (It won an Arthur Ellis First Novel Award, too!) The Water Rat of Wanchai is the first in a series featuring the whip-smart Canadian Chinese forensic accountant, Ava Lee, who undertakes a case to return swindled funds. Her partner, "Uncle", in Hong Kong, has a personal relationship with the family which puts even more pressure on Ava as she follows the money, Yahoo! I've discovered Ian Hamilton, writer of the Ava Lee mystery series, and wondered how on earth I've been in the dark for so long! (It won an Arthur Ellis First Novel Award, too!) The Water Rat of Wanchai is the first in a series featuring the whip-smart Canadian Chinese forensic accountant, Ava Lee, who undertakes a case to return swindled funds. Her partner, "Uncle", in Hong Kong, has a personal relationship with the family which puts even more pressure on Ava as she follows the money, from Hong Kong, to Thailand, Guyana and finally the British Virgin Islands. The plot is smart, suspenseful, loaded with fascinating local colour and trivia and filled with unexpected twists. It's a real pleasure to discover a mystery writer who has created a storyline with an exciting heroine, an unusual detecting profession and fascinating sleuthing adventures. And how did I find this series? Well, upon searching Goodreads Giveaways, I discovered Ian Hamilton's newest book offered by Anansai Press, a small Canadian boutique publisher. I didn't win the book, but I found the author! Good publicity, Goodreads!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Skip

    Ava Lee is an unlikely hero: a clever, female, Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant, adept at martial arts. Basically, she is a large dollar debt collector and works with her "uncle" in Hong Kong. In this first book in a series, she is seeking to recover $5 million stolen from a Chinese family that financed a seafood supplier. Her travels and job take her to many dangerous spots, providing a setting for her formidable negotiating and fighting skills. She also generates leads by masquerading as Ava Lee is an unlikely hero: a clever, female, Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant, adept at martial arts. Basically, she is a large dollar debt collector and works with her "uncle" in Hong Kong. In this first book in a series, she is seeking to recover $5 million stolen from a Chinese family that financed a seafood supplier. Her travels and job take her to many dangerous spots, providing a setting for her formidable negotiating and fighting skills. She also generates leads by masquerading as various governmental officials or feigning as a Triad member. Look forward to reading the next one in this series.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Lemons

    Thankfully, the US Edition doesnt have any of the Starbucks VIA branding other reviewers have mentioned. Anyway, Im feeling rather complicated about this book. On the one hand, this book took me places Ive never been before. Bangkok, Hong-Kong, Guyana, and even the British Virgin Islands. Those places cultures were described vividly and respectfully. On the other hand, I had to have Googles street view up throughout my read just to get an idea of what these places looked like. The descriptions Thankfully, the US Edition doesn’t have any of the Starbucks VIA branding other reviewers have mentioned. Anyway, I’m feeling rather complicated about this book. On the one hand, this book took me places I’ve never been before. Bangkok, Hong-Kong, Guyana, and even the British Virgin Islands. Those places’ cultures were described vividly and respectfully. On the other hand, I had to have Google’s street view up throughout my read just to get an idea of what these places looked like. The descriptions of them were just too sparse and lacking. Descriptions were at their best in this story when they were of the people Ava was interacting with. The MC was a relatively one dimensional character, but there were two very important things that stood out to me about her. Ava Lee absolutely abhors: • Fat people • Filipinos Of which I am both. Personally, I found it rather amusing. Here we have this super lethal female heroine, kicking ass, taking names and booking flights. Somewhere amongst all of that she finds the time (several times) to rant to herself about how slummy the Phillipines are. There’s something to be said about the consistency in which her character’s prejudices are written, or the fact they’re even there at all. It’s quite coincidental that these prejudices are descriptors of my own, hence my amusement. Despite the male-gaze writing style, the MC’s sexuality felt extremely natural. It wasn’t even the focus of the story. I was actually surprised, given the extensive descriptions of Ava Lee’s body, that it wasn’t used as a plot device for fantasy fulfillment. 3.5 stars overall. Interesting concept and good pacing, however, there was not enough mystery nor conflict. I may try the next book in the series since it actually involves Filipino characters. I’m curious to see what kind of fit Ava Lee is going to throw about it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    Well. Ian Hamilton makes forensic accounting possibly the most dangerous profession going. After spending a couple of days with this first in a series starring Ava Lee, damsel extraordinaire, Id have to say he has a winner concept and style that is sure to keep readers interested. Ava Lee, Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant and entrepreneur, recovers stolen funds. The story is told with details that make the theft, and the countries she visits if not entirely plausible, certainly an Well. Ian Hamilton makes forensic accounting possibly the most dangerous profession going. After spending a couple of days with this first in a series starring Ava Lee, damsel extraordinaire, I’d have to say he has a winner concept and style that is sure to keep readers interested. Ava Lee, Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant and entrepreneur, recovers stolen funds. The story is told with details that make the theft, and the countries she visits if not entirely plausible, certainly an entertaining fiction. I loved learning things about international banking practices and international trade financing that I did not know—and watching her manipulate the truth in service to the ends. Ava, talented though she is, ran into bad men and roadblocks that challenged even her exquisite poise and capabilities. Straightforward and willing to compromise when required, Ava was occasionally obliged to kick, punch, or otherwise subdue her attackers physically when her clever international financial machinations did not work as planned. Skilled in the legendary bak mei techniques, she sometimes may have sustained injury, but was victorious in the end. Bak Mei is defined in Wikipedia as “Bak Mei (Chinese: 白眉; pinyin: Bái Méi; literally "White Eyebrows") is said to have been one of the legendary Five Elders — survivors of the destruction of the Shaolin Temple by the Qing Dynasty imperial regime (1644–1912). Bak Mei has been fictionalized in films, most recently portrayed by Gordon Liu in the Hollywood film Kill Bill, Vol 2." It is a “secret, formerly forbidden art, a form of self-defense that is purely functional, designed to inflict damage. And it can be lethal when applied to the extreme.” Our girl wins the day and wins the chance to travel the world in search of new transgressors. This series is definitely worth a look. Don’t be put off by all the references to clothing labels and Chinese ways of eating and drinking. All this is close enough to actual Chinese culture to pass muster and to inspire in this reader at least a sense of curiosity about how the author had the nerve to create a young female lesbian Chinese character who clearly is very far from his own older white male former-diplomat reality. I’d say Hamilton succeeded admirably, leaving some wiggle room for a few guffaws and the suspension of disbelief.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    The main character is a young, cosmopolitan Canadian born Chinese woman. She's skilled in the martial arts (of course!) and lives by her wits. These basics project a comic-book vibe. Hamilton, however, has made Ava Lee a well-connected forensic accountant whose business partner, a shadowy figure she calls Uncle, can supply muscle if necessary. Part of Ava's appeal is that she prefers the subtlety of leveraging the thief's own self-interest against him, rather than relying on force. Although Ava The main character is a young, cosmopolitan Canadian born Chinese woman. She's skilled in the martial arts (of course!) and lives by her wits. These basics project a comic-book vibe. Hamilton, however, has made Ava Lee a well-connected forensic accountant whose business partner, a shadowy figure she calls “Uncle,” can supply muscle if necessary. Part of Ava's appeal is that she prefers the subtlety of leveraging the thief's own self-interest against him, rather than relying on force. Although Ava earns her extraordinary fees through recovering the stolen assets, and not merely tracing the fraudulent channel, that bit of expertise permits Hamilton to devise an unusually complex plot. Ava's client is a man named Andrew Tam, nephew of a close friend of “Uncle.” That relationship places extra pressure on Ava. Tam heads a private lending consortium. They specialize in large-scale short term commercial loans bridging cash flow fluctuations in complex business transactions. In this case, Tam's company, Dynamic Financial, is out $5 million dollars due to the fraudulent activities of Jackson Seto, head of Seafood Partners, a dodgy seafood wholesaler based in Thailand. Ava asks Tam how he met Seto. It was through a family connection he answers. He was close friends with Henry Chang who was friends with Jackson's brother Frank Seto. Frank Seto was the son-in-law of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman named Carter Chan. Chang, unfortunately, had no idea that Frank's sterling credentials did not extend to his brother Jackson. Ava's pursuit of the lost $5million will take her to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana, and the British Virgin Islands. Hamilton elaborates on Chinese culture in a few superficial ways. Ava is not merely trained in kung-fu, but in an obscure and deadly form called bak mei. Personal relationships are emphacized throughout the book. Ava and Uncle only deal with Chinese clients. Ava's father arranges her introduction to Frank's father-in-law, insuring that Frank Seto will accept Ava's call inquiring about the whereabouts of the missing Jackson Seto. Ava herself is well-connected through contacts she made at the exclusive Havergal College high school in Toronto. (Alumnae refer to themselves as the “Old Girls.” The bond is stronger than being a sorority sister). She continues to exert her considerable charms in her travels, gathering valuable local intelligence at each stop. The book is an action-filled thriller. Much of the early part of the book is devoted to Ava's background. Her mother is wife number 2. It appears that Ava's father is currently transitioning from wife number 3 to wife number 4. His wealth is ample enough to support this vast extended family on a luxurious scale, and everyone is on ostensibly friendly terms. However, the tension intensifies when two uniquely deadly villains appear on the scene. Captain Robbins is de facto head of both politics and criminal activities on Guyana. His protection permits Jackson Seto to live a carefree life on the island. Robbins' brother Jack is a corrupt police chief and enforcer on the British Virgin Islands, a mecca of offshore secret bank accounts. I was attracted to this book by the forensic accounting background of Ava, and was a bit disappointed that wasn't a larger part of the plot (I'm sure I'm in the minority in that opinion). However, this turned out to be an entertaining bit of escapist reading with interesting plot turns and a vicarious taste of high living in exotic locales. Juxtaposed with the seamiest depths of corruption, the series is easily addictive. It does not surprise me that the Canadian Broadcasting Company is developing a limited TV series based on Hamilton's series.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cate

    I started to read this book because I couldnt recall ever having read a crime series that had a forensic accountant as the main protagonist, and a female one at that. This character just grated on my nerves from the very first, and Im not sure if it was the intention of the Author to make her dislikeable or was just the way things turned out in the end. She is rich, as we are constantly reminded whenever possible, only likes the best of everything and was an avid coffee drinker, like all the I started to read this book because I couldn’t recall ever having read a crime series that had a forensic accountant as the main protagonist, and a female one at that. This character just grated on my nerves from the very first, and I’m not sure if it was the intention of the Author to make her dislikeable or was just the way things turned out in the end. She is rich, as we are constantly reminded whenever possible, only likes the best of everything and was an avid coffee drinker, like all the other characters in this novel. As a female lead character she is not the strong independent woman I was hoping for; the kind that inspires other women to reach their full potential. In fact she is quite the opposite, she comes out of the page as being some sort of superwoman that can do anything, have anyone and anything she likes. This in itself is not a bad thing, but the way in which she is written could possibly make her an intimidating character to those women readers who are not supremely confident in their own skin and lives and, in my opinion this is something no Author should do to their readers, make them feel less than they are. In an effort to make her interesting she is Chinese-Canadian, although how this could redeem her flaws I am still not sure. The coffee company Starbucks was mentioned so many times in this book that I broke off to look and see if it had been published through some program they funded. Another disappointment, apart from the obviously brand push, was that there is actually very little forensic accounting in this book, and what small amount there is takes place in a whole 5 or 6 pages. Combine these points with flat and uninteresting language and you have a book that really does not deliver for me, and this is the reason behind by 2 thumbs rating. Given that this is marketed as an international thriller, I failed to get the thrill from the book that was hinted at and, although a taste of each country visited in the storyline was given, it just wasn’t enough to make this a series I would want to read anymore of. Originally reviewed on: http://catesbooknuthut.com/2014/11/05... This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rubi

    2.5/5 stars. ... they didn't just get people's money back, they got them their lives back." This is not a common "black novel". Ava's job consists in getting back money that has been stolen. The plot is not bad, but too long and in some parts, boring. Where is the action? I have liked Ava, the main character, and the descriptions about cities in other countries (Ian Hamilton explains some curiosities about Canada, China, India and Guyana). I feel bad if I decided not to continue with a saga after 2.5/5 stars. ... they didn't just get people's money back, they got them their lives back." This is not a common "black novel". Ava's job consists in getting back money that has been stolen. The plot is not bad, but too long and in some parts, boring. Where is the action? I have liked Ava, the main character, and the descriptions about cities in other countries (Ian Hamilton explains some curiosities about Canada, China, India and Guyana). I feel bad if I decided not to continue with a saga after only the first book, so I will give it another opportunity. But I hope the second one will be much better than this one. "When was the last time, she thought again, she had misjudged a situation so badly? When was the last time she had misjudged a man so badly?"

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    This is the first in the series and Ava is on the go as usual but in this one she overextends herself. The resourceful Ava finds a scamming duo and it looks like everything is going to plan when a greedy "warlord" puts Ava in her place- but just temporarily. We visit Hong Kong, Thailand, Guyana, and the British Virgin Islands. Hamilton paints Guyana as almost Somalia-like. Waiting for the Guyanese government to tag him on their watch list after his depiction of their country. You don't mess with This is the first in the series and Ava is on the go as usual but in this one she overextends herself. The resourceful Ava finds a scamming duo and it looks like everything is going to plan when a greedy "warlord" puts Ava in her place- but just temporarily. We visit Hong Kong, Thailand, Guyana, and the British Virgin Islands. Hamilton paints Guyana as almost Somalia-like. Waiting for the Guyanese government to tag him on their watch list after his depiction of their country. You don't mess with Ava as some very powerful men soon find out. I just love this series-fast paced and with good plot resolution!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I know very little about the world of banking and high finance and found the book boring, but only in the beginning. As the plot got underway I found it difficult to put down. The lead character, Ava, is a beautiful, Chinese-Canadian woman who works as a forensic accountant. I don't know if this is an actual job in the real world. Her specialty is recovering huge debts owed to people who were cheated in business. She lives in Toronto and her work includes a great deal of travel. Her partner is I know very little about the world of banking and high finance and found the book boring, but only in the beginning. As the plot got underway I found it difficult to put down. The lead character, Ava, is a beautiful, Chinese-Canadian woman who works as a forensic accountant. I don't know if this is an actual job in the real world. Her specialty is recovering huge debts owed to people who were cheated in business. She lives in Toronto and her work includes a great deal of travel. Her partner is an elderly Hong Kong man whom she calls 'Uncle", and she works for a percentage of the recovered funds.I found the locale of Guyana fascinating, which is an unusual setting for an action book. The other settings were not described as vividly. Her travels in this case takes her from Toronto, through Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana, and the British Virgin Islands. Her assignment is to recover a 5 million dollar debt owed to a nephew of one of 'Uncles" friends. I thought Ava was methodical, ruthless, cold and brutal and I did not warm to her. She knows some obscure and deadly martial arts. In Guyana she meets Captain Robbins who seems to control the police, army officers, politicians and criminals and she must contend with him and his nasty brother in her attempts to recover the debt. This is the first of a series, and hope that subsequent books may make Ava more vulnerable and likable.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Arah-Lynda

    Who would think that a story about forensic accounting could be so exciting? Welcome to the world of Ava Lee, a young Canadian-Chinese accountant extraordinaire. In pursuit of five million in misappropriated funds Ava will take you on a heart pumping, journey fom Toronto to Seattle. From Hong Kong to Bangkok the tension builds until Ava finds herself in Guyana and destined for the British Virgin Islands. As an accountant who is five foot three and 115 pounds soaking wet, Ava still lays claim to Who would think that a story about forensic accounting could be so exciting? Welcome to the world of Ava Lee, a young Canadian-Chinese accountant extraordinaire. In pursuit of five million in misappropriated funds Ava will take you on a heart pumping, journey fom Toronto to Seattle. From Hong Kong to Bangkok the tension builds until Ava finds herself in Guyana and destined for the British Virgin Islands. As an accountant who is five foot three and 115 pounds soaking wet, Ava still lays claim to some unique gifts of strength and perseverance, chief among them the ancient study of Bak Mei, all of which she will need when she comes up against Captain Robbins, a god father like figure who seemingly controls everyone and everything in Guyana. If Ava is to complete her assignment and redirect the five million in stolen funds back to her client she will no doubt need Captain Robbins help......but can she trust him? Who says bean counters don't have fun? I for one will be waiting for the next installment of Ava Lee's adventures in unorthodox accounting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Blair Conrad

    First, let me tell you the most important piece of news. At least I assume the author feels this way. There's a kind of instant coffee packet that Starbucks sells, and it's called VIA. The product's name is dropped so many times during the book, the cover might as well have had a "sponsored by" banner plastered across it. Carrying on. The book was easy to read, and not too long (unless one considers the ratio of pages to content). The language was flat and uninteresting. Ava's a superwoman - First, let me tell you the most important piece of news. At least I assume the author feels this way. There's a kind of instant coffee packet that Starbucks sells, and it's called VIA. The product's name is dropped so many times during the book, the cover might as well have had a "sponsored by" banner plastered across it. Carrying on. The book was easy to read, and not too long (unless one considers the ratio of pages to content). The language was flat and uninteresting. Ava's a superwoman - beautiful, smart, insanely desirable to men, trained in an improbably secret brand of martial arts, you name it. To make her a little interesting, she's Canadian, Chinese, and a lesbian. Or at least lesbian enough to mention a girlfriend twice. There was very little forensic accounting in the book - that part was over in about 5 pages. Then there was some running around and some illegal vigilante actions, just so Ava could make some money. In the end, we're left with an uninteresting story with an unlikable protagonist.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chrisl

    Read the first four Ava Lee before burning out on the world Hamilton presents. Corruption among worldwide elite ... some interesting settings and crimes but unbelievable characters. Perhaps 3.53 average score for series first few

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lilisa

    For a light, easy and entertaining read, you can't beat an Ava Lee fix. This is the second Ian Hamilton book I've read - the other was #4 - this is #1 in the series. Enjoyed this one more - Ava Lee is a kick! She's a forensic accountant, a bak mei whiz and smart as a whip - the combination is decidedly lethal. Her business - research money trails for desperate clients and recover millions of dollars from deals gone sideways - generally involves taking on and outwitting the bad guys mentally and For a light, easy and entertaining read, you can't beat an Ava Lee fix. This is the second Ian Hamilton book I've read - the other was #4 - this is #1 in the series. Enjoyed this one more - Ava Lee is a kick! She's a forensic accountant, a bak mei whiz and smart as a whip - the combination is decidedly lethal. Her business - research money trails for desperate clients and recover millions of dollars from deals gone sideways - generally involves taking on and outwitting the bad guys mentally and physically. She's a curious collection of tradition, independence, feminism and a woman who honors her word with a healthy respect for her opponents. This novel takes us on a whirlwind tour of Toronto, Seattle, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana and the British Virgin Islands chasing after bad guys who have swindled Andrew Tam out of millions of dollars in the seafood business. A fast-paced and fun read. (Full disclosure - I got this book through Goodreads Giveaway.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Smart, resourceful, independent and elegant - Ava Lee is a heroine for our times. Oh, and did I mention kick-ass? Set some years after the prequel (but published well before), I really appreciated some of the little details connecting Ava to her backstory, such as her wearing her antique ivory chignon pin to set off her business attire. But that aside, this is a new case for Ava and Uncle - one that sees our bak-mei practising forensic accountant travelling from Canada, to Hong Kong, to Thailand, Smart, resourceful, independent and elegant - Ava Lee is a heroine for our times. Oh, and did I mention kick-ass? Set some years after the prequel (but published well before), I really appreciated some of the little details connecting Ava to her backstory, such as her wearing her antique ivory chignon pin to set off her business attire. But that aside, this is a new case for Ava and Uncle - one that sees our bak-mei practising forensic accountant travelling from Canada, to Hong Kong, to Thailand, then on to Guyana and the British Virgin Islands where the final, somewhat brutal, act plays out. She has been working to recover $5M from a shady shrimp dealer laying low in lawless Guyana. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but it's actually really clever, and the plot is almost breathlessly fast-paced. I can't wait to fit another Ava Lee outing into my reading schedule.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert Intriago

    Wonderful protagonist. She is so interesting that I am looking foward to reading the next book. So you wonder why did I only give it three stars? For two reasons. First, I understand that the author has to set up a new protagonist and give it background. That does not mean you need 180 pages, which reads mainly like a travel log and a food review, to introduce the main character. Second, I found the story very predictable. The good parts and most of the action were reserved for the end of the Wonderful protagonist. She is so interesting that I am looking foward to reading the next book. So you wonder why did I only give it three stars? For two reasons. First, I understand that the author has to set up a new protagonist and give it background. That does not mean you need 180 pages, which reads mainly like a travel log and a food review, to introduce the main character. Second, I found the story very predictable. The good parts and most of the action were reserved for the end of the book. The author does a very good job in building the character of the bad guys. This is specially true of Captain Robbins. I would like to see what the author does with the main character in the second book now that he has established her background.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Judith E

    Ava Lee, forensic accountant, easily weaves her way through the world of international banking and corporations to recover large sums of stolen money. She also practices bak wei, meticulously plans her revovery scheme and has a large network of support that has been arranged by her Uncle. An interesting tale and the first of three in a series.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    She felt her first flush of irritation. I really dont want to hurt you, or the woman upstairs, she said, increasing the pressure on the knife tip. The password for the computer is waterrat, he said in a rush. Your zodiac sign? she asked. Yes. She felt her first flush of irritation. “I really don’t want to hurt you, or the woman upstairs,” she said, increasing the pressure on the knife tip. “The password for the computer is ‘waterrat,’” he said in a rush. “Your zodiac sign?” she asked. “Yes.”

  20. 5 out of 5

    Left Coast Justin

    Ouch. This is bad. I'm not sure how people get past the flagrant racism and brand-name pumping that litter this book. Sketchy ethics? Taking her client at his word, our heroine kidnaps the alleged swindler (and his girlfriend, and his bodyguard, both of whom are presumably blameless) and subjects them to what might be generously termed a lack of civil liberties. Then, though the sum under dispute is $5M, she accesses his bank account and decides to help herself to the rest of his savings, too, Ouch. This is bad. I'm not sure how people get past the flagrant racism and brand-name pumping that litter this book. Sketchy ethics? Taking her client at his word, our heroine kidnaps the alleged swindler (and his girlfriend, and his bodyguard, both of whom are presumably blameless) and subjects them to what might be generously termed a lack of civil liberties. Then, though the sum under dispute is $5M, she accesses his bank account and decides to help herself to the rest of his savings, too, because, well, the guy is tied up and peeing himself, so why not? Completely unbelievable action sequences? Confronted by two men who collectively outweigh her by a factor of four, she decides to attack the one wielding a knife first, whom she dispatches with a "piston-like" blow to the nose with her knuckle. Of course, in real life, the thing to do with a knife-wielding assailant is to put as much distance between you and them as possible, because knives are dangerous and quite unspecific as to where and how they can injure you. (Pedantic aside: The human arm, with its long, straight sections and bendy joints, cannot meaningfully be compared to a piston.) Oh, and Mr. Hamilton: thanks for the third-grade-level explanation of why Toronto is now teeming with Chinese, who are grasping and acquisitive and cluster like fleas. And also for clarifying the definition of "hell-hole": A city without a Marriott Hotel for our heroine to stay in. Fact: You cannot get the CEO of a major corporation to drop everything and come to the phone by calling the company's switchboard and claiming to be from the FDA. That's why these CEO's have quality departments; and while regulatory agencies in Mr. Hamilton's native Canada may have real authority, down here in the USA they've been rendered about as fierce and frightening as fourteen-year-old cocker spaniels. In sum: One reason few people write action novels based around the amount of ice and polyphosphates inside a bag of frozen shrimp is because....You know what? Never mind.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eric Wright

    An entertaining and enlightening read, appreciated after a couple of Christmas holiday duds. Through his character, Ava--a forensic accountant cum investigator cum marital arts expert, Hamilton takes us into the thoughts and culture of the Chinese. His insights into this culture caught me by surprise, including so many details and facts that were new to me. Ava, through joining up with an older man, 'her erstwhile uncle,' runs a business tasked with recovering stolen and misappropriated funds. To An entertaining and enlightening read, appreciated after a couple of Christmas holiday duds. Through his character, Ava--a forensic accountant cum investigator cum marital arts expert, Hamilton takes us into the thoughts and culture of the Chinese. His insights into this culture caught me by surprise, including so many details and facts that were new to me. Ava, through joining up with an older man, 'her erstwhile uncle,' runs a business tasked with recovering stolen and misappropriated funds. To look at Ava is a slim, very attractive Chinese woman in her early 30's. She is based in Toronto, while he is based in Hong Kong. In this suspenseful tale ranging from Ava home to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guiana we find her chasing two sleazy characters, the worst of whom is the water rat of Wanchai. These two have through a series of slick moves misappropriated millions geared by buying and delivering shrimp to an American chain. They and the money have disappeared. Ava must find them and somehow persuade them to return it or the client will be both bankrupt and shamed among his Chinese contemporaries. In each of the locales we gain insights into the country, culture and character of the people, both the hoi poloi and the sleazy underbelly of society. We also gain insights into the international money markets. In Guiana, Ava faces her stiffest opponest, the ruthless power behind the government of the run-down country. Will she escape his clutches with money restored to her client, or will her nemesis triumph? A very fast-paced story ensues. The only warning I would give is that readers may find that Ada's sexual orientation is troubling. Fortunately overt sexuality does not occur.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shonna Froebel

    This mystery is the first in a new series featuring Ava Lee. Ava is a forensic accountant. She was born in Hong Kong, but grew up in Canada and lives in Toronto. Her work involves tracking down money that has gone missing. Her partner is Uncle Chow, an older man based in Hong Kong that she worked with early in her career and subsequently teamed up with. Ava is a small woman, but highly trained in martial arts, a skill that sometimes comes in handy in her work when traditional methods fail. In This mystery is the first in a new series featuring Ava Lee. Ava is a forensic accountant. She was born in Hong Kong, but grew up in Canada and lives in Toronto. Her work involves tracking down money that has gone missing. Her partner is Uncle Chow, an older man based in Hong Kong that she worked with early in her career and subsequently teamed up with. Ava is a small woman, but highly trained in martial arts, a skill that sometimes comes in handy in her work when traditional methods fail. In this book, Uncle has been approached by an old friend to recover $5 million that has gone missing in a deal with a seafood company. Ava's investigation leads her to Hong Kong, Thailand, Guyana and the British Virgin Islands and into many interesting situations. There are a lot of interesting characters and a fast-moving plot. This is a thriller with a strong female protagonist. I'm looking forward to the next one.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anna at A Wondrous Bookshelf

    In a sea of 5-stars I come in rating it as 3. I read this book because of my book club. Not sure I would have really gravitated towards it otherwise. Part mission impossible, part 007 the narrative is fast-paced but the main character is just impossible to relate to. Shes almost a superhero. I knew I couldnt stand her when I secretly kept wishing someone was going to kill her. But, no! Of course she doesnt die and she goes on to win the trophy at the end. Im not sure what the authors problem is In a sea of 5-stars I come in rating it as 3. I read this book because of my book club. Not sure I would have really gravitated towards it otherwise. Part mission impossible, part 007 the narrative is fast-paced but the main character is just impossible to relate to. She’s almost a superhero. I knew I couldn’t stand her when I secretly kept wishing someone was going to kill her. But, no! Of course she doesn’t die and she goes on to win the trophy at the end. I’m not sure what the author’s problem is with Guyana, and I admit I don’t know much about the place, but if I was to trust the author’s descriptions I would never set foot there. I’m surprised it’s even a country by the way it was described in the book. Ultimately, although the book was entertaining at parts, I just can’t see myself reading another novel with that protagonist. 3-Stars and I feel I’m being generous.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Mcdonald

    I heard Ian Hamilton speak at a Harbourfront Author's series event and was intrigued by his description of his heroine Ava Lee and the series. There are three books in the series so far and I've now read them all and highly recommend them. Ava Lee is an accountant by profession, but the way she earns her (very impressive) living stretches the boundaries of what we would understand accountants to do! Hamilton combines a fascinating mystery about finding missing assets with incredible travels I heard Ian Hamilton speak at a Harbourfront Author's series event and was intrigued by his description of his heroine Ava Lee and the series. There are three books in the series so far and I've now read them all and highly recommend them. Ava Lee is an accountant by profession, but the way she earns her (very impressive) living stretches the boundaries of what we would understand accountants to do! Hamilton combines a fascinating mystery about finding missing assets with incredible travels around the world. Ava is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent and can subdue any foe with use of bak mei, a little known and incredibly powerful martial art. The Water Rat of Wanchai is a great introduction to what will be an ongoing series I have no doubt.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    4.5* Who knew forensic accounting can be so exciting? Absolutely love the main character, Ava Lee, and her kick-ass get it done attitude. She works to recover money stolen from firms around the world. She lives in Toronto while her partner, Uncle, is based in Hong Kong. This book sees her going to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana, and British Virgin Islands. Pleasantly surprised that Ava is gay. It doesn't really factor in how she does the work. I like that it's just mentioned, sort of in passing, to 4.5* Who knew forensic accounting can be so exciting? Absolutely love the main character, Ava Lee, and her kick-ass get it done attitude. She works to recover money stolen from firms around the world. She lives in Toronto while her partner, Uncle, is based in Hong Kong. This book sees her going to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana, and British Virgin Islands. Pleasantly surprised that Ava is gay. It doesn't really factor in how she does the work. I like that it's just mentioned, sort of in passing, to begin with (when she recalled going to Bangkok with a woman she was dating.) Definitely reading the next book soon. Have high Hope's for this series.

  26. 4 out of 5

    G.B. Gordon

    The writing is not inspired, but serviceable (Russell Lynes had a point); the plot's compelling enough, though. I enjoy travelogues, so those parts didn't bother me (if you don't, you might find them dragging). The MC is ... unfortunate, to say the least. A classic plot vehicle: cardboard-flat, mary-sueish, and brand-obsessed. But here also, aggravatingly, what a white, straight man imagines a Chinese, queer woman to be like. I can get over the former and enjoy a good Bond knock-off any time. The The writing is not inspired, but serviceable (Russell Lynes had a point); the plot's compelling enough, though. I enjoy travelogues, so those parts didn't bother me (if you don't, you might find them dragging). The MC is ... unfortunate, to say the least. A classic plot vehicle: cardboard-flat, mary-sueish, and brand-obsessed. But here also, aggravatingly, what a white, straight man imagines a Chinese, queer woman to be like. I can get over the former and enjoy a good Bond knock-off any time. The latter, though ... Yeah, no.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nico

    Review and rating to come. Gritty, thrilling, addictive and ultimately exhausting (but I think in a good way). But I'll tell you one thing, I need me some light fantasy after reading all of these contemporaries; I'm not used to all this "real world" and "regular humans" stuff in my reading...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Teagan

    3.5 starts - I quite liked this book, it was a little dry at times but all in all it was a good quick read with likeable characters. Ill keep going in the series as I think they are a good palate cleanser between books with heavier material. 🤓 3.5 starts - I quite liked this book, it was a little dry at times but all in all it was a good quick read with likeable characters. I’ll keep going in the series as I think they are a good palate cleanser between books with heavier material. 🤓

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marci -

    Who knew forensic accounting would be so action packed, exotic locations around the world, as well as a woman spearheading it all. I cannot wait until book 2 is released in the series !

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ieva

    a good read by a Canadian author - looking forward to reading more of these

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