Trish's Reviews > The Water Rat of Wanchai

The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian  Hamilton
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's review
Jun 26, 12

bookshelves: adventure, asia, fiction, islands, mysteries, series
Read from June 25 to 26, 2012

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.
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Reading Progress

06/25/2012 page 60
15.0% "Am enjoying this more than I thought I would. Ava Lee is one cool babe."
06/26/2012 page 326
79.0% "Whoever said accountants had boring jobs? Good grief. This is anything but boring and it is interesting for the international business detail, let alone country detail, the author brings to the show."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Carol (new)

Carol Sounds intriguing. I love the idea of forensic accounting. I'm positive I read something with this as a theme but darned if I can put my finger on it.

Regardless, thanks for the tip on an author I'm not familiar with.

Trish I couldn't seem to find this published in the USA. I have a copy published by Anansi Press in Canada, and had to buy from used bookstores online. Other Goodreads friends liked it less than I, and I admit the beginning was a bit stolid. However, the writing got better as he went along--this is his first novel, remember--and I hear the second and third books in the series show the author gathering experience and finesse as he writes. You will remember my background is Asia, and this has as good descriptions of Hong Kong and Bangkok as any I have seen. I can't speak to the Caribbean and Guyana, but I imagine it is recognizable and true enough from his descriptions. As to forensic accounting, it is really fascinating, and he has a lot of material to work with, judging from the problems companies run into in Asia. I really like the series and bought books 2 & 3.

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