The Water Rat of Wanchai
Review: Forensic accountant Ava Lee is hired to recover $5 million in funds stolen as part of a complicated financing deal, only to discover that the thief is holed up in the South American nation of Guyana, well beyond any legal jurisdiction and even outside one that her own company can guarantee her safety, in The Water Rat of Wanchai, the first mystery in this series by Ian Hamilton but the fourth to be published in the US by Picador. It was the winner of the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel.
Her search for Jackson Seto, the person who took the money, leads her initially to Thailand, where Ava tracks down his partner George Antonelli. She blackmails him into disclosing Seto's present whereabouts. Heading off to Guyana worries Uncle, Ava's partner in the firm. Though he knows Ava can take care of herself, he's concerned that she will be completely out of touch with the vast network of resources that he commands. Ava quickly determines that shaking the stolen money out of Seto will require the assistance of the local government represented by Captain Robbins, and makes arrangements to secure its cooperation … to the tune of $300,000 in Robbins' personal bank account. Still, it's the price of doing business in Ava's mind. It isn't until after Ava and Seto at in the British Virgin Islands — where the stolen money is in a numbered account — that Robbins changes the parameters, and demands half of the money or else he will turn them into the authorities himself.
The Water Rat of Wanchai is a first-rate crime novel, a fairly long one at nearly 400 pages but one that moves along briskly. The storyline is well-structured, though as a first in series novel it provides possibly a bit more backstory to the characters than one might see in later entries. (Many readers will already be familiar with Ava Lee, and thus find this introduction to be, if not redundant, then at the very least over-long.) The settings of Thailand, Guyana, and BVI (briefly) provide a colorful backdrop to the crisply-written action, which is centered on the resourceful and really quite engaging character of Ava Lee. A strong, solid effort overall.
Acknowledgment: Picador provided a copy of The Water Rat of Wanchai for this review.
Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Water Rat of Wanchai: Bangkok, Thailand; Guyana; British Virgin Islands
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The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton — An Ava Lee Mystery
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: May 2014
List Price: $16.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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