In the sixth instalment of the Ava Lee series, Ava and her business partners May Ling Wong and Amanda Yee discover that their investment in a furniture company based in Borneo has gone sour. The sisters who own the company have lost a considerable amount of money in a bad deal with a Dutch client, and Ava travels to Borneo to recoup the loss. Financial crimes call to mind images of men and women in suits analyzing numbers on a computer screen, but in typical Ian Hamilton fashion, this investigation leads Ava into dealings with a gang of local thugs and the need to call upon Uncle’s muscle.
This is probably my favourite among all the Ava Lee stories — it’s certainly the most emotional. I’ve always loved the mentor/protegee relationship between Ava and Uncle and in this book, Uncle has been battling cancer for several months now, and concern over his health is paramount on Ava’s mind even as she continues to investigate the case. Uncle’s health is clearly in an unstoppable decline throughout the book, and even though he’s still alive, there’s already a clear passing of the torch, and Ava must deal with the thought of a future without Uncle’s guidance.
The mystery itself is filled with unexpected twists and turns. Some aspects of the case fell flat, such as a senseless kidnapping that seemed added just to include some action, and a deus ex machina move involving a mysterious figure that made sense given the context of the story but still felt too convenient. The big reveal was a surprise, and added some emotional heft to the mystery.
My one big complaint, not just with this book but with the series as a whole, is the overemphasis on brand names and descriptions, particularly of luxury goods. We often hear that Ava is wearing a Brooks Brothers shirt (or a Giordano shirt, depending on the occasion) and how she never drinks anything but Starbucks Via. Unless the character is Miranda Priestley from Devil Wears Prada or Claudia Kishi from The Babysitters Club, I really don’t care what they wear for every single scene in the book. To give you an idea — I read this book a few weeks ago, and yet I can still remember exactly what brands she likes. It’s annoying, and all I can hope is that the author is somehow being compensated for the product placement.
Still, this is definitely one of, if not the, best in the Ava Lee series. Uncle’s illness adds an emotional heft that is at times more compelling than the mystery itself, yet that also adds a sense of urgency to the case, as Ava rushes to complete it as quickly as possible so that she can go back to Uncle. It’s a must read for fans of the series.
Thank you to House of Anansi for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.