The Wild Beasts of Wuhan

The Wild Beasts of Wuhan - Ian Hamilton Ian Hamilton has envisioned his Ava Lee series as a multi-volume work. When he finishes writing one volume, he begins writing the next on the following day.

Ironically, the action in the second volume (The Disciple of Las Vegas) actually also picks up on the following day, immediately following the action of the first volume The Water Rat of Wanchai.

Here, Ian Hamilton begins writing the following day, but Ava has taken a two-month break from chasing bad debts.

The Wild Beasts of Wuhan opens when she is on a cruise with her family, having left her girlfriend, Maria, back in Toronto.

Tensions on the family front are as remarkable as the tensions were in Ava's last case; just as the reader is wondering if things will escalate to outright blows on the deck or in the next port-of-call, Uncle calls with another forensic accounting job for Ava.

Although the dynamics of the family situation are interesting (Ava's mother, Jennie, is her father's second wife, and he later took a third wife), how much readers respond to this aspect of the novel will depend on their investment in Ava as a character.

Of course, not all mystery readers are looking for substantial character development; although Ava Lee is a tantalizing invention in The Water Rat of Wanchai, there isn't a lot of development in the series' next two volumes.

Readers actually meet characters they've only heard of, or have only heard on the telephone (e.g. Uncle, Ava's business partner, in the second book, and Marcus, Ava's father, in the third book), but there is little dimension added as the pages turn.

Surprisingly, the same is true of Ava's character. There are glimpses of her sense of being abandoned by her father, and of her difficulty forming and sustaining lasting emotional relationships, but readers' relationships with Ava are necessarily distanced.

Just as the image of a woman's silhouette on the cover of each book is the same, Ava's profile (typically clad in either a Brooks Brothers shirt and tailored black pants or a Giordano black T-shirt and Adidas running pants) is largely static throughout the books. It's appropriate, in that sense, that what readers do know about Ava is largely reduced to external preferences and details.

But readers who seek a persistently-paced plot, who simply enjoy returning to a series for what Victor Watson describes as a "paradoxical search for familiarity combined with strangeness", will be happy to return to the land of Ava Lee.

Readers who enjoy travelling to a variety of destinations (Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the Faeroe Islands, Dublin, London, and New York in this volume), who want to run through the city parks with Ava, will be pleased with Ian Hamilton's works also.

Readers who enjoy shopping vicariously as much as they enjoy armchair travelling in their mystery reading: these readers likely will be satisfied too.

This volume has Ava seeking to recover funds invested in a series of paintings which have been proven to be forgeries long after the initial sales, and the glimpse into the art world is interesting indeed.

Ultimately, the readers who enjoyed the company of Ava Lee in the series' second volume, The Disciple of Las Vegas, as much as in the first, The Water Rat of Wanchai, will likely enjoy The Wild Beasts of Wuhan as much, if not more.

The first volume remains my favourite, but my interest was revived in the later pages of this third volume, given the way in which this case was -- and was not -- resolved.

(My longer response to this work is here, if you're still keen to read more.)