Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton

The Water Rat of Wanchai (Ava Lee #1)

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.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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