Book Review: The Water Rat of Wanchai (Ava Lee #1) by Ian Hamilton

Out of a totally spontaneous venture to the bookstore a while back, I bought this book which is the first of a series called The Water Rat of Wanchai.  Why I chose it is because it is set using a female protagonist who is Chinese-Canadian and well, Wanchai is in Hong Kong.  I always like to venture into these sort of books, even though this one, I’ve never heard of before.  Peculiar enough is that the author is not Chinese so I was interested in how authentic the interpretation of it would be. Lets get started with the plot!

the water rate of wanchai coverAva Lee is a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant living in Toronto.  She affiliates her business with a close family friend called Uncle who is in Hong Kong.  Her job is to take on contracts from people who have had money stolen from them and track down where it has gone, in exchange her service is a commission of the amount she was able to collect back, in full or not.  This time, she is sent to take care of business of a friend of Uncle’s who swam down from mainland China when China was in turmoil.  Its a relationship and bond that can’t be broken.  She needs to help his relative Andrew Tam seek out money that he lent out for a wholesale fish import business that had gone bad and the owners were completely off the radar.

The Water Rat of Wanchai is a very smart novel.  It approaches it in a way where our strong female character leads us onto a journey where we learn about her abilities and how she uses certain qualities to get what she wants with her extremely sensitive observation and analysis skills.  The only issue I had was that at times, Ava Lee was too tough.  Tough to a point where its unrealistic even though the novel aims at possibly being more realistic as its set in very real places around the world.  Sometimes, Ava Lee can also be a character where her feminism is slightly overbearing.  As much as those characteristics may hinder her character, we do get a few surprises to her character.

The most intriguing part of the novel is how the investigation proceeds.  It really pulled me straight into the action and every step of the way, it kept me wondering what Ava Lee would do to solve her problems.  Going into foreign countries and having to deal with other cultures and their own set of politics as well as using many resources to trace where she had to be next to try to retrieve the money.  In many parts, I actually sensed the urgency of the situation and by the end, the book had turned into a page-turner.

The Water Rat of Wanchai has a lot of good features to it and its compelling and engaging to read.  It is a page-turner and a pretty good mystery novel.  Ava Lee is an interesting character to put on paper.  She shows a lot of Chinese values and qualities enveloped with the Canadian born values to mesh into someone who can transform herself to be likable in certain situations.  Forensic accounting would’ve been what I’d have wanted to do if I had become an accountant so to me, it had a even deeper meaning and stronger connection.  I like investigation and analysis in stories and this one did a very good job at it.

Definitely recommend it! As for me, I’ll be looking for the second one in the series soon!