The Couturier of Milan (2017) – Ian Hamilton

Next Monday, the adventures of Ava Lee continue in Ian Hamilton’s latest instalment in the addictive, page-turning series that began with The Water Rat of Wanchai and continues now with book nine(!) and one novella – The Couturier of Milan.

Over the course of these books, I have grown to consider Ava Lee a friend, and it’s always a delight to check in on her. These books, their pacing coupled with Hamilton’s descriptive, flowing prose make for exciting reads. They are in fact very difficult to put down, the pages fly by, which leads to the one complaint I have had since I first came across the series… I want them to be longer.

I want them longer, because I read them too quickly, and before I know it, the pages have run out, there is a hint of what is to come, but the wait for the next novel seems to be interminable, but that is my cross to bear while Hamilton cooks up more adventures for Ava to go on.

Everything works in Hamilton’s books and this novel is no exception. Ava’s company, Three Sisters, has been financing a Chinese fashion designer for awhile now, and the story opens with a successful show in the West that could lead to bigger and better opportunities for Three Sisters as well as the PO fashion line.

When they are approached by an Italian businessman who expresses interest in acquiring PO, Ava and her partners decline. In the blink of an eye, the businessman and his company turn on them, trashing their public image and name just as they were gaining traction.

Ava refuses to let that stand, and sets her much vaunted skills as a forensic accountant to work to find a way to take the opposition down a notch, and restore the PO name. But there will be surprises and revelations on both sides, and it may lead to a full out war between criminal gangs.

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Ava, from the very beginning, has been a fully-formed, real person in my mind, and that is all due to Hamilton’s skills with words, plot and character, and all are on display in fine form in this book.

Weaving around the main plot are wonderful character moments that fill out the world wonderfully. We check in with Ava’s mother, Jennie, her girlfriend, Maria, her business partners, Amanda and May, as well as her Triad connections, like Xu, and her loyal driver, Sonny.

All of these characters have grown since their introduction, as Ava has, and I love seeing how all these pieces fit together to form Ava’s life.

I’m not sure I have ever raved about Ava, herself. I mean the idea of a series of novels about a forensic accountant doesn’t sound so very exciting, but those are only the beginning of Ms. Lee’s skills, and all of them tend to be put to use through all of the novels.

These novels combine Fleming-style descriptions of brands and clothes, while embracing a rapid-fire, unparalleled prose that wraps the reader up in a globetrotting adventure that one doesn’t have to leave the couch for.

I love these books, the character of Ava, and will await the next instalment with bated breath.

The Couturier of Milan is available Monday from Anansi Press here in Canada. If you haven’t started the series check them out, it’s a thrilling ride, and Ava Lee is a 21st century hero.

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