Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Mountain Master of Sha-TinThe Mountain Master of Sha Tin by Ian Hamilton

Ava is thrust into a violent and volatile situation when her good friend, Xu, the Mountain Master, asks her to settle a triad war that has broken out in Hong Kong because he is too ill to leave his bed. She is forced to work against her arch enemy Sammy Wing and his nephew Carter – the new Mountain Master of Sha Tin – as they attempt to regain control of Wanchai.

Hamilton provides a comprehensive summary of Ava’s adventures to this point, providing any new reader with enough backstory to make the events in this novel understandable. However, I always recommend that one reads a series from the beginning as there are often subtle references in previous novels that become germane to subsequent stories.

The violence is ramped up in this novel and Ava is forced to do things that she’d rather not have to. Uncle’s presence is felt more than it ever has been since he died, almost as if he is reassuring Ava that she is following the right path. Her years of working as a forensic accountant have trained her well in approaching complex problems and she falls back on the tricks of the trade that she polished to perfection with Uncle by her side.

Offsetting the violence, Hamilton provides a subplot involving Pang Fai, Ava’s friend and lover, which opens the door to some interesting potential plots. I wonder if he’ll incorporate them in his next novel, The Diamond Queen of Singapore, due out in July 2020.

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

34064625BODY ON BAKER STREET  by Vicki Delaney

There aren’t very many surprises in this heavily formulaic mystery by Canada’s Vicki Delany.  When Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson, proprietors of the Sherlock Homes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street, are approached about holding a book signing with Renalta Van Markoff, the controversial author of the Hudson and Homes mystery series, it’s glaringly obvious who the victim will be in this second book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery.  Not only that, but we know what the “murder weapon” will be a good twenty-four hours before the murder is committed (it couldn’t be more obvious if it was lit up with a neon sign!).

There’s the indignant Holmes’ expert who decries Renalta’s interpretation of Conan Doyle’s invention; Renalta’s long-suffering assistant; and finally, the handsome publicist.  All are considered suspects and Gemma and Jayne take it upon themselves to solve this murder before an innocent person is arrested.

9781487002749THE IMAM OF TAWI-TAWI by Ian Hamilton

Ava has just started a new relationship with the actress Pang Fai when she’s contacted by one of Uncle’s oldest friends.  He wants Ava to fly to Manila to look into the rumours of a college in Tawi-Tawi, an island in the Philippines, which is said to be training terrorists.

While the first part of this novel seems to consist of Ava “living” on her phone, the pace soon ramps up and Ava is thrust into an investigation that is anything but simple.  She partners up with a CIA agent and what they find when they finally are able to investigate the college will chill you to the bone.

Hamilton has raised the bar again with this novel as Ava has to rely on all the guile and wisdom that Uncle ever passed onto her while also digging deep into her own personal resources.

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

9781770899568The Couturier of Milan
b
y Ian Hamilton

Ava Lee is at her best in this new tale by Ian Hamilton.  Ava and her partners in the Three Sisters come to the attention of the famous fashion guru, Dominic Ventola when one of their investments – the PO fashion line – is showcased at London Fashion Week.  Ventola is more than impressed and offers to buy the Three Sisters’ stake in the company.  Ava and her partners are not ready to give up control of this line and decline his offer.

Ventola is someone that you do not say no to and he lashes out, making derogatory comments to the Press about this collection, causing many of their customers to pull their orders.

While Ava and her partners fight with guile and cunning to regain their customer base, Ventola retaliates with intimidation and violence.   Having Xu on her side, Ava enters a tug-of-war between opponents in the fashion industry, leading to a dangerous situation when powerful crime syndicates become involved.

More a thriller than a mystery, this novel takes us from Toronto, to Hong Kong, to Milan on an incredibly fast-paced and exciting journey.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51SeB0RDm9L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAmong the Ruins
by Ausma Zehanat Khan

After the events that took place in The Language of Secrets Esa Khattak takes a much needed holiday.  He travels to Iran where he connects with his heritage but a holiday of “r and r” is not to be.  He’s approached by a Canadian government agent asking him to investigate the death of a Canadian-Iranian film-maker –  Zahra Sobhani – who was murdered at the infamous Evin prison.  Now if this sounds familiar it’s because Khan’s inspiration for her character, Zahra, was inspired by the real-life murder of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who was murdered outside Evin in 2003.

Khattak is thrust into the politics of the country and is quickly aware of the danger to himself, personally, as he continues his investigation.  Calling on his partner, Rachel Getty back home in Canada, she unearths a possible conspiracy linked to old murders, the Shah of Iran and the Royal Ontario Museum.

This book is rich in language and imagery and provides us with a window into the corruption and fear that surround the regime of this country.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

princeling of nanjing

The Princeling of Nanjing by Ian Hamilton

Ava and her two partners in the Three Sisters investment firm are in Shanghai for the launch of the new clothing line, Po. Xu is her guest during the wining and dining of prospective clients and their conversation turns to problems that he’s having with his business. The powerful Tsai family is trying to force him to go back into the drug business and Xu knows that if he does, it will mean disaster for him on many scales. Ava offers to look into the family’s business dealings in the hopes that she can find something that will allow Xu to fend them off.

What she finds is corruption on a massive scale. And this corruption doesn’t end with the Tsai family – it reaches beyond their province and into the UK and U.S. where powerful political personages are implicated.

At a few points in the novel Ava voices her concern that she’s brought too many people into the equation. As a reader, I found it hard to keep track of all the characters, even with the chart that Ava made outlining who’s who. I actually wanted to skip those sections where detailed descriptions of the relationshipsbetween certain characters were given, as I found them too confusing.

This novel didn’t generate the same level of excitement as Hamilton’s earlier novels, but it did leave me wanting more. And as always with his novels, it left me with a real hunger for Chinese food!