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by Ian Hamilton
Picador, February 2013
352 pages
ISBN: 1250031931

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

While accounting might not be the first choice a mystery writer might assign as a detective's greatest strength, in the able hands of Ian Hamilton and his new creation, forensic accountant Ava Lee, it works brilliantly. Of course Ava Lee is not just any number cruncher; she is a martial arts-trained Chinese- Canadian with plenty of practical skills in taking down men twice her size.

She will adeptly employ those skills, too, as she works to ferret out just where millions of dollars have gone that once belonged to the company of one of the richest men in the Philippines, a very impatient Chinese businessman named Tommy Ordonez. When Ava Lee and her Hong Kong partner, referred to only as "Uncle," start pursuing the clues, it's clear that this will be no simple matter of numbers. Not only does the crime involve Ordonez's brother, but also an online gambling site whose shady practices need to be deciphered.

Then there are the poker players (including the "Disciple of Las Vegas"), not to mention the Native Americans on whose land the computers (which store the online business) are located, and finally a connection to a Member of the Houses of Parliament and his daughter. It all makes for a rollicking tale that gives readers nearly as much jet lag as Ava Lee, as they follow her exploits from Toronto to Hong Kong to the Philippines to Las Vegas to London and beyond.

There is plenty of action in Hamilton's debut novel of the series, and not all of it is at the airport either. The mystery also provides a good introduction to Ava Lee and her family, who will figure more strongly in the follow-on second novel (a sneak peak is provided at the end of the paperback). Most of all, Ava Lee is the right combination of brains and brawn for dealing with the recovery of so much money, a very likable central figure around which to base a mystery series.

While this is a satisfying first book in and of itself, those who like to wager would likely place their bets on Lee to provide successful conclusions for many more mysteries to come. Pack your bags.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, March 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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