Monday, March 20, 2023

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: The Red Pole of Macau by Ian Hamilton

Ian Hamilton is a Canadian journalist turned mystery writer. He has published three books in his Uncle Chow Tung series and 15 books about Ava Lee, a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who deploys her martial arts skills far more often than most accountants do. Ava Lee first appeared in The Water Rat of Wanchai, which won the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The fourth book about Ava Lee is The Red Pole of Macau (Picador Paper, 2013), which plunges Ava into family drama. Her father has been married three times, has children from each marriage, and maintains a relationship with all three wives while keeping the children apart. The fact that the three families live on different continents helps the separation. Thus Ava has never met her half-brother Michael until her father solicits her assistance in pulling Michael and his business partner out of a real estate deal that has gone sideways. The money they pledged was backed by her father and its loss would cause disruption to the financial equilibrium of all three families, so Ava Lee has a personal stake in the outcome.

She flies to Hong Kong to meet Michael and his partner Simon, then they go to gambling haven Macau to meet the real estate consortium organizers, who react negatively to the request for the return of Michael’s investment. They express their displeasure and show their true colors by kidnapping Simon and demanding a ransom. Ava Lee draws on all of her local resources to locate Simon and retrieve him safely, while tracing the consortium’s finances, which seem to have Triad connections, in order to extract the family’s money with her hacking skills.

Slickly executed and well plotted with relentless action, this story is an absorbing piece of escapism. Ava Lee is too good to be real but she is fun to watch. It reminds me of the Kill Bill films with its focus on Asian themes and martial arts but the violence is not as extreme. The nonchalance with which these people undertake international travel is staggering to me; they globetrot the way I visit a grocery. For fans of crime fiction with strong female leads and of international thrillers.


·         Publisher: Picador Paper; Reprint edition (December 31, 2013)

·         Language: English

·         Paperback: 334 pages

·         ISBN-10: 9781250032317

·         ISBN-13: 978-1250032317


Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2023

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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