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.

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Review: Deceptive Cadence (The Virtuosic Spy, #1) ~ Kathryn Guare

Deceptive Cadence

The debut of a new hero in international suspense. MI6 has recruited its most unlikely agent an Irish musician sent to India to capture the man who ruined his career: his own brother.

Until Thomas disappeared, Conor McBride had assumed his brother was a simple Irish farmer, content to remain at home while his younger brother chased a career in Dublin as a violinist. That assumption was shattered the day Conor was arrested, falsely implicated as his brother’s accomplice in a conspiracy to commit international fraud.

Five years later, an eccentric British intelligence agent has turned up in Conor’s living room to deliver another shock about his missing brother: Thomas is in India, and involved in something far more dangerous than fraud.

Persuaded that he represents Thomas’s last chance for redemption, Conor is recruited by MI6 to find him. His unlikely journey progresses from the seedy dance bars and back alleys of Mumbai to the tranquil ashrams of Rishikesh, forcing a crisis of identity as he transforms from musician to trained operative.

He is becoming a virtuoso of a different sort, and as Conor reluctantly descends deeper into the world of covert intelligence, he confronts a revelation about his mission that will again shatter all his assumptions about his brother, and faces the possibility that the people he trusted may want him dead.

4 Thumbs-Up

This is the Authors debut novel, and the first in a series featuring the main lead.

I like political thrillers but, if there a few things that will turn me away from reading one it’s the words MI:6, MI:5 and IRA.  Authors such as John Le Carre and Stella Rimington always seem to struggle to make these subjects engaging and accessible to the non-spy community, and their books are as dry as kindling.  Not anymore, there is a new Author on the ups, and she’s out to take her place among the greats in this genre.

The characters in this novel are real, not in the manner in which they are living breathing real, but in the fact that they smoke, swear, get drunk, and  grieve but not in a condescending manner.  They do all these things with the vigour of a real human being.  The way this Author develops the back stories of her characters is also dealt with in a kind of real-time way; we are allowed to learn more about them as the novel progresses, and the circumstances suit a particular trait to be revealed, just as we would get to know someone new in our everyday lives.  The main lead for this, and the upcoming books in the series, is a strong male.  Not too strong that the reader can’t identify with him, and not strong in the physical way either, but his strength is more an inner state of mind for this character, and sometimes he takes stock of throughout the book.  The character is allowed to show his emotions in such a way that I didn’t feel like the Author was trying to make him more effeminate, but was revealing that even the strongest of people have inner turmoil.  His mentor was absolutely spot on, or as I envision these types to be.  He was pompous, arrogant and sported a ‘stiff upper lip’ marvellously, while at the same time revealing snippets of his own history that made me want to know more about him, and why he had chosen to project this type of image over any other he could have chosen.  If there is a stereotypical Englishman, this character would be the poster child.

Descriptively, this novel is right on the mark; whether the Author is describing the workings, sound  and feel of a violin to the nuances of the way a Symphony Orchestra conducts (excuse the pun) itself, the reader is there.  I mean right there listening to the music and watching the Orchestra.  When we hit the road for the travelling portions, the way the airport, cities, sounds sights and smells are written made me want to pack my back, pick up my camera and head out with the main lead on his travels.

The novel moves along at a steady pace, and doesn’t become bogged down in any particular place, as is the tendency with a lot of novels in this genre; the transitions are smooth and seamless.  It is well written and obviously very well researched.  There were, however, a couple of places in the novel that made me think ‘now why did you have to go and write that, and just there too?’, but that’s just my personal take on the book.

This is an engaging, high-octane, entertaining political thriller that I would recommend to anyone that is new to the genre and those who, like me, are tired of the same old thing being regurgitated by Authors who should know better.  I am looking forward to reading more in this series.

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