The Water Rat of Wanchai (2011) – Ian Hamilton


I don’t remember the last time I read a book so voraciously as I did this first in a series of novels from Canadian author Ian Hamilton. The Water Rat of Wanchai, preceded in this edition by the novella The Dragon Head of Hong King, we are introduced to Ava Lee, a forensic accountant.

At first blush, that didn’t sound like something that would hold my attention… a forensic accountant? But Hamilton’s story-telling style, a machine gun clip of scenes and moments, coupled with an almost Fleming-esque style of descriptions, not to mention the smart, sexy and resourceful heroine he created in Ava Lee, completely swept me up in the world he created.

Ava has her own accounting business based in Toronto, as she didn’t like the constraints provided by the corporate world, but, for the past 10 years, she has also partnered with Chow Tung, referred to as Uncle, and the Dragon Head of the novella, which details Uncle and Ava’s first meeting and the beginning of their business relationship. Using her skills, Ava aids those who come Uncle to reclaim lost or stolen money, and Uncle’s connections the world-over, help facilitate this reclamations, but it is Ava who does the footwork, tracing the money to its location, and then working to get it back. She’s a debt collector.



When Uncle is approached by a man who has been swindled by a Seafood company based in Hong Kong, Ava finds herself travelling from Canada to Hong Kong and Kowloon, following the electronic trail, until she finds her culprit in the South American country of Guyana. It’s here, in this developing country, that Ava quickly finds things slipping away from her, as she confronts the true villain of the piece, a man who seems to be able to control everyone and anything within the tiny country, and without his help, Ava may be stuck. But he’s also in it for his own cut of the recovered money, and won’t let Ava out of sight until then.

If work had not gotten in the way, I probably would have blazed through this book in a day, I was that hooked in it, and you’ll see that for the next few posts, I will be working my way through the series, I have to have more!

Hamilton’s style of writing keeps the plot moving, introduces some less than desirable characters to stack the odds against Ava, and then, as we know it is the first in the series, and I’m sure she won’t always be successful, but it’s going to be cool to figure out how she gets away, how she reclaims the money, and how she out thinks her enemies.

The last few chapters, like the rest of the book were a whirlwind, and as the climax all comes together, I was completely delighted in Hamilton’s storytelling, and more than relieved that I had the next book in the series on my bedside table ready to go!

I cannot endorse this series enough! A wonderfully brilliant heroine, a rapid-paced story, evocative writing, what more could I want? Oh! And it’s Canadian! YES!




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