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The Water Rat of Wanchai (Ava Lee #1)

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,316 Ratings  ·  236 Reviews

In Ian Hamilton's The Water Rat of Wanchai, we meet forensic accountant and martial arts expert Ava Lee in her early days working for the mysterious businessman Uncle as they track down large sums of money that have disappeared. One of Uncle's longtime friends has requested help for his nephew, who needs to r
Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Picador (first published 2011)
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Joey Comeau
May 29, 2012 Joey Comeau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 w
Feb 23, 2016 Lisa rated it liked it
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 descripti
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 o
Jan 25, 2016 Skip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
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 va
Jun 27, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
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 ...more
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 ot
Jun 26, 2012 Trish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 entertain
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 a
Blair Conrad
Oct 17, 2012 Blair Conrad rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bought, used, fiction
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 - beaut
Marci -  Serendipitous Readings
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 !
Robyn Paterson
Sep 15, 2014 Robyn Paterson rated it liked it
Not a bad start, but definitely a quirky book.

It's only a mystery in the desperate eyes of the publisher's marketing department who were trying to find a category that would make the book sell. In reality, it's a travelogue about a young woman who goes from country to country and underworld to underworld in search of stolen money. You learn a lot about the places she visits, and the nature of corruption in each of these places, but there really isn't a mystery to be had here. We know who did it
Dec 02, 2011 Arah-Lynda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, i-said

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
Feb 02, 2015 Kendra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
A good start to a mystery series. Ava Lee is an interesting new character -- a forensic accountant who uses non traditional methods to regain massive debts that would otherwise not be repaid. She lives in Toronto (yay!) and her business partner is based in Hong Kong. It's an international mystery, so the reader is transported across the globe with Ava Lee. My only criticism of the story is the excessive descriptions of Ava Lee's mundane daily routines and the brand names associated with those ro ...more
Eric Wright
Jan 02, 2012 Eric Wright rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, fiction
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
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 ...more
Sep 20, 2012 Ineke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ava Li, is een mooie jonge vrouw van midden dertig. Woont in Toronto, Canada houdt van mooie spullen. Ze heeft een uitdagend en spannend beroep, forensich accountant. Het brengt haar de hele wereld over. Ava is een ster in geld opsporen. Tevens is zij heel bedreven in Bak Mei een Chinese vechtsport die weinig mensen beheersen. Nu wordt haar hulp ingeroepen door Andrew Tam. Zijn bedrijf is een behoorlijke som geld kwijtgeraakt op een slinkse manier. Hij heeft via via gehoord dat Ava heel goed is. ...more
Shonna Froebel
Nov 21, 2012 Shonna Froebel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
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 thi
Cheryl Swanson
This series of books about a forensic accountant, Ava Lee, was recommended to me by my son, and I pleasantly surprised how enjoyable this first book was. She is definitely an unusual character but has all the skills to travel the world looking for missing money. At times, it seems unbelievable what she does but she is very resourceful as would her male counterparts be so allow yourself to be drawn into the story.
Kathy Mcdonald
May 23, 2012 Kathy Mcdonald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 arou ...more
3 1/2 para la primera entrega de las aventuras de Ava Lee, una 'detective' que en realidad es más bien una auditora especializada en asuntos económicos, inteligente e ingeniosa, pero capaz de convertirse en toda una Jet Lee si la situación así lo requiere. Sofisticada y hábil en todo tipo de situaciones, sus aventuras se caracterizan por un ritmo ágil, y la originalidad del planteamiento ciertamente es bienvenida en un género en donde parece que lo negro tiene que reducirse exclusivamente al ase ...more
Jan 21, 2016 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ava Lee is a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who specializes in recovering massive debts. Ava works for an elderly Hong Kong-based 1CUncle, 1D who may or may not have ties to the Triads. At 5 193 33 and 115 lbs., she hardly seems a threat. But her razor-sharp intelligence and unorthodox rules of engagement allow her to succeed where traditional methods have failed.
Ava is persuaded by an old friend of Uncle 19s to help his nephew who is owed $5 million from a seafood company. The nephe
Jan 02, 2015 Normalene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ms. Ava Lee, forensic accountant, is an intriguing, classy, character and the adventures she gets into are the stuff legends are made of. An understated feminine James Bond with financial weapons, Ava stays cool under the most awkward situations, whether sliding falsified documents under a banker's nose or talking her way out of a corrupt policeman's hands. The action moves around the world as Ava traces money that never made it into the right hands. Recovery is her name and accounting is her ga ...more
Nov 21, 2014 Lois rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book while in Hong Kong and on the plane coming back.

Does knowing the obscure martial art of bak mei turn a tiny woman into a superhero who can take down two oversized tough guys in a flash? Who knows. It did impact a certain cartoonish feel to the book, though.

Our detective heroine, Ava Lee, a forensic accountant, has no qualms about committing one illegal maneuver after another, and in numerous foreign countries too. She does end up in a Chinese jail cell and confined in various s
The idea of following the adventures of a Chinese-Canadian forensic account seems like a bit of a chore. And the fact that this novel was written by a white former journalist, who is a grandfather of seven made me even more skeptical. My misgivings were quickly dismissed as I dove into the intriguing world of Ava Lee, a poised, powerful, intelligent young woman, who specializes in hunting down and recovering massive debts. She works for an elderly “Uncle”, who may or may not have ties to the Chi ...more
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Die Geldeintreiberin

Mit etwas über 30 hat Ava Lee schon einiges geschafft. Sie besitzt eine tolle Eigentumswohnung in Toronto, sie hat die besten Schulen besucht und sie arbeitet als Wirtschaftsprüferin und Steuerberaterin, eigentlich. Uneigentlich übernimmt sie Aufträge von dem in Hongkong lebenden Onkel. Dann ist dessen Kunden oder Freunden bei normalerweise gewinnbringenden Aktionen jede Menge Geld abhanden gekommen, das sie dann doch gerne wieder hätten. So ist es auch diesmal, bei einem eig
Jul 14, 2014 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, canadian
The Water Rat of Wanchai is the first book in the Ava Lee series and the well-deserved winner of the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel. Lee is a forensic accountant who, in partnership with her "Uncle" in Hong Kong, traces and recovers money that has been lost due to unscrupulous dealings. In this novel, Lee is trying to recover the $5 million proceeds from a financing deal for a seafood company's shrimp harvest. The client is a family member of one of Uncle's oldest friends so the pr ...more
Patricia Ann
Jun 14, 2014 Patricia Ann rated it really liked it
The Water Rat of Wanchai was an interesting and fast moving read. It maintained my interest except for the spelling errors that I would have expected to be corrected in the 2014 edition. Ava Lee is an intelligent, strong, beautiful woman who is a "forensic accountant". That is, she tracks and collects money for clients who have been victims. I like Ian Hamilton's writing style but occasionally became distracted by descriptors and stories about the characters that did not add to the story line no ...more
Brittney Martinez
Jun 17, 2014 Brittney Martinez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton is a mystery-thriller about Ava Lee, a forensic accountant, whose job is to find track down money that has gone missing and return it to its rightful owner.

I’ve read quite a few mysteries/thrillers with a female lead character, and a common problem is that when a male author writes a female character, she ends up sounding more like a man than a woman. Male authors turn her into a fantasy woman who likes beer and sports and hates anything remotely feminin
Feb 01, 2016 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By the second chapter, I couldn’t put this book down. I read it in three days, picking it up in every spare moment I was so eager to see what happened.

As many others have mentioned, Ava is a great character. Her Chinese cultural background gives the book some interesting depth, and the book’s exotic locations and tight plotting make it entertaining. But what I really think makes it work is the author’s (and Ava’s) understanding of the intricacies of international business finance. It sounds bori
Adelaine Pek
Dec 27, 2014 Adelaine Pek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book and I, are fated!

I first bumped into this book in a bookstore near my work place. The synopsis as shown above surprisingly caught my attention. I was immediately intrigued but as I was rather tight on my budget at that moment, I had to put the book down. Second time I bump into this book was at an annual book sale and as you can see from my post previously on my HAUL FROM THE BIG BAD WOLF SALE 2014, I managed to get the book for lesser than the original price. On purpose, as the settin
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Why is it not available as an e-book in the US 1 7 Feb 20, 2013 08:38AM  
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Ian Hamilton has been a journalist, a senior executive with the federal government, a diplomat, and a businessman with international links. He has written for several magazines and newspapers in Canada and the U.S., including Maclean's, Boston Magazine, Saturday Night, Regina Leader Post, Calgary Albertan, and the Calgary Herald. His nonfiction book, The Children's Crusade, was a Canadian Book of ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Ava Lee (9 books)
  • The Disciple of Las Vegas (Ava Lee, #2)
  • The Wild Beasts of Wuhan (Ava Lee, #3)
  • The Red Pole of Macau (Ava Lee, #4)
  • The Scottish Banker of Surabaya (Ava Lee, #5)
  • The Two Sisters of Borneo (Ava Lee, #6)
  • The King of Shanghai (Ava Lee, #7)
  • The Princeling of Nanjing (Ava Lee, #8)
  • The Couturier of Milan (Ava Lee, #9)

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