The Diamond Queen of Singapore (2020) – Ian Hamilton

Somehow, with all the wackiness that was happening last year, I missed the House of Anansi Press’ release of the next Ava Lee novel by Ian Hamilton. Of course, that just meant I could catch up on it now, and I won’t have quite as long a wait (theoretically) for the next one.

This time around, the excitement of the chase reaches a fever pitch as Hamilton leads Lee from her home city of Toronto, onwards to Shangai, and deeper into China before setting the book’s last act back in the big T-Dor. And that made the ride all the more enjoyable, as Lee wanders the streets that I know and have travelled so often myself.

Lee is asked to help her friend Mimi, whose father just took his own life after investing his money in a church groups financial fund that has now declared bankruptcy. She’s determined to find out what happened, reclaim Mimi’s father’s money and uncover the secrets of a mega-church and those who run it.

With crisp, taut storytelling Hamilton whips us around the globe with his captivating prose that delivers like a phoenix strike. What Ave discovers is a trail of cash, diamonds and drugs, and she’s ready to bring it all down, no matter who stands in her way.

With thirteen novels, Ava Lee is not only a fully realised character, she’s a strong and intelligent heroine who inspires, entertains, and takes readers to places they may never have been. Hamilton’s Fleming-esque style of descriptions elicits images, and sensations that bring Ava’s realm to colorful, glittering life. Hamilton long ago became one of those authors whose words I don’t even see when I’m reading, it’s all a visual in my mind’s eye.

Through it all, Lee checks in with familiar friends, all on those characters we’ve grown to love that inhabit her world, her love life continues to blossom, and she agrees to finance a film that could run her afoul of the Chinese government, with a story that must be told.

I devour these books within hours, and honestly, could probably knock them out in a single sitting (but I like to savour them), that’s how good they are. They are the perfect summer read, completely engaging, entertaining, and un-put-down-able.

For those of you who haven’t read any of Ian Hamilton’s novels, I’m envious; to be able to discover these stories anew, and to have thirteen novels (the fourteenth is due out in 2022) to enjoy. Invite Ava Lee and Ian Hamilton onto your bookshelves, and dig in, and then join me in the wait for the next welcome addition, The Sultan of Sawawak, to be released next year.

The Diamond Queen of Singapore is now available from House of Anansi Press.

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