Fortune (2020) -Ian Hamilton

I discovered the writings of Ian Hamilton in April 2015. Before that, I had seen his books in a variety of bookstores and I kind of innately knew that I was going to read them sooner or later. So when I came across the first six books in one go, I picked them up in one fell swoop, taking a chance, and an addiction was born.

Now I wait, impatiently it seems, for each new issue from this Canadian author and devour each book whole as it is released, then lament the fact that I read it so quick and the long wait begins again. It’s a vicious cycle. In 2019, Hamilton took one of the supporting characters from his very successful Ava Lee series (and as an aside, if you haven’t read them, do yourself a favour and go out and get them, and you’re so luck, because there’s now a dozen of them to enjoy all available from House of Anansi Press) and decided to tell some of his story.

Chow Tung, more commonly known as Uncle, has served as Ava Lee’s mentor and China-based partner since the beginning of the series, and his past has been hinted at, alluded to, and haunted the characters over the years, but with Fate, followed by Foresight, and now Fortune, Hamilton has expanded the Ava Lee-verse and given Uncle his own stories, fleshing out the character even more so.

This time around, the story leaps forward to 1995, the return of Hong Kong to the Chinese people is two years away, and it seems there may be a gang war brewing that Uncle, as a mounter master of one of the triad gangs, may find himself in the middle of.

As the story unfurls, more things come into play, including a strange offer from the Chinese government which could change the face of China forever.

Hamilton writes in a matter-of-fact style that enthrals, wrapping you up in the text of his work as his characters find themselves confronting enemies and the changing world around them. His punchy prose delivers a heartbeat to the story that melds fact and fiction, and offers an insight into a culture that most of us may never experience.

Uncle is sixty-one in this story, he’s successful, still haunted by an insurmountable loss, and despite the fact that it’s never brought right out and said, I think he’s a little lonely, which is why the mentor relationship with Ava (when it begins) is so important to him.

In fact, by tale’s end, he’s almost the character we’re introduced to in the first Ava Lee novel, The Water Rat of Wanchai and we can see his growth and change over the series, and in this trilogy of novels. There are also some final players that are placed in the ‘verse with this novel, and with each familiar name and reference, a smile creased my face.

Hamilton delivers, time and again, a brisk, fast-paced story;a book that defies you to put it down until you’ve turned the last page, and Fortune is no different.

But of course, now that I’ve finished it, the wait begins again.

Damn.

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