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

water ratISBN ~ 978-1250032270
Publisher ~ Picador
No. Of Pages ~ 400 pages
Links ~ House of Anansi, Amazon, Indigo

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 recover five million dollars from a business deal that went sideways. Ava steps in and immediately is off on a global hunt for the missing money that has her dodging shady characters.

On a journey that takes her from Seattle to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Guyana, and the British Virgin Islands, Ava encounters everything from the Thai katoey culture to corrupt government officials. In Guyana she meets her match: Captain Robbins, a godfather-like figure who controls the police, politicians, and criminals alike. In exchange for his help, Robbins decides he wants a piece of Ava’s five million dollars and will do whatever it takes to get his fair share.

2 Thumbs-UpI 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 other characters in this novel.  As a female lead character she is not the strong independent woman I was hoping for; the kind that inspires other women to reach their full potential.  In fact she is quite the opposite, she comes out of the page as being some sort of superwoman that can do anything, have anyone and anything she likes.  This in itself is not a bad thing, but the way in which she is written could possibly make her an intimidating character to those women readers who are not supremely confident in their own skin and lives and, in my opinion this is something no Author should do to their readers, make them feel less than they are.  In an effort to make her interesting she is Chinese-Canadian, although how this could redeem her flaws I am still not sure.

The coffee company Starbucks was mentioned so many times in this book that I broke off to look and see if it had been published through some program they funded.  Another disappointment, apart from the obviously brand push, was that there is actually very little forensic accounting in this book, and what small amount there is takes place in a whole 5 or 6 pages. Combine these points with flat and uninteresting language and you have a book that really does not deliver for me, and this is the reason behind by 2 thumbs rating.

Given that this is marketed as an international thriller, I failed to get the thrill from the book that was hinted at and, although a taste of each country visited in the storyline was given, it just wasn’t enough to make this a series I would want to read anymore of.


Review: The Guilty ~ Gabriel Boutros

The Guilty
Robert Bratt is a lawyer who has always done whatever it took to win his cases. After twenty years of defending the most hardened criminals, many of whom he knew to be guilty, the only thing he can no longer do is look at himself in the mirror. Loosely based on a multiple-murder that shocked Montreal in the 1990s, this riveting story pulls the reader into the inner workings of a murder trial, and reveals what one lawyer must do when he has to defend “The Guilty.

 5 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel by this Author, and the first courtroom drama that I have read in a very long time after becoming jaded by Baldacci and Grisham who seem to churn out cookie cutter books by the dozen now.  However, after reading this, I am sure I’ve rediscovered my love for this genre and, if this Author keeps up this level of writing, he will be knocking the aforementioned two off their very high pedestal.

Right from the opening of this novel, the main male lead is anything but likeable; think of all those Lawyer jokes you’ve heard or told, and they all apply to him.  He is the one that would give the shark a stomach ache.  This ‘man’ is arrogant, has no humanity about him whatsoever, and is not afraid to let anyone within earshot know that it’s his way or the highway.  He knows he is a clever and skilled Lawyer, and wants everyone to know this, whether they like it or not.  As unlikable as he is, the reader is drawn to him to see why he became this way, if he will be redeemable and, if not, to have a ringside view when his demise and total ruin take place.  This character does not have any Perry Mason or Ben Matlock qualities about him at all, and that is just fine; this is a gritty and disturbingly honest view of one reprehensible human being.  The remaining cast of characters in this novel have just as much time invested in their development; there are those that you will love and those that really renew your faith in the human race; and then there are those like our lead who you would like to see locked away for a very long time.

Unlike some courtroom drama novels, this one doesn’t have any episodes of high velocity action, and that works really well with the writing style of the Author; things definitely do happen in the book but nothing that would have you gripping the edge of your seat.  Because of the writing skill and style of the Author these action sequences are not needed, and their absence only serve to make the reader more aware that they are taking a glimpse into a world the Author has personal knowledge of; although not in the guise of our despicable lead we hope.  It is apparent from the way in which the courtroom scenes are described, and the way the justice machine in this part of the country moves along, that the Author has pulled from his own experiences in the legal arena and this makes the book more genuine and believable.

In this novel, the reader will find all the trappings of an epic courtroom drama that is also loosely based on actual events that took place in Montreal in the 1990’s; it is gritty, gripping and makes you want to keep reading on to the stunning conclusion.  However, readers need to be aware this is not a novel you will be able to pick up and dip into for a few chapters.  Due to the writing skill demonstrated and authenticity brought about by the experiences of the Author, the reader will find themselves being immersed totally into the story line, and needing to carry on reading regardless.  This book made me neglect things I needed to do, and stay up far too late so I could finish it, which in my opinion is the hallmark of a truly outstanding book.

At its core, it is so simple. Courtroom dramas are about the battle between good and evil, justice and injustice, right and wrong. Sometimes the case deals with an unimaginable crime. Sometimes it takes a look at the complexity of the human mind. Whatever the case, a person’s life is on the line. And with the help of complex characters and a great storyline, this novel has it all; it deals with extremes… and that makes for an intense story.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of Baldacci and Grisham et al also to those who have never picked up a courtroom drama before.  I am looking forward to seeing what this Author produces in the future.