I’m a long-time fan of the Ava Lee books, and am thrilled to see this newest title is set in the Philippines. An old friend of Uncle’s calls Ava to request a personal favour — his friend Senator Miguel Ramirez fears that a college in southern Philippines is actually a training ground for terrorists, and he’d like Ava to investigate.
Imam of Tawi-Tawi is probably one of my favourite Ava Lee mysteries. I’ve never really been much of a fan of her superhuman fighting ability, and action movie fight scenes, and my favourite stories have always been where her humanity and vulnerability are allowed to show. So I absolutely loved the cerebral nature of this novel’s plot. There’s some action near the end, but mostly, it’s a very thorough investigation of paperwork and files, and there’s a lot of strategizing about how to get the answers she needs.
There’s also a lot of questions raised about justice, prejudice and the struggles faced by Muslims. While Hamilton doesn’t delve too deep into the complex history of Islam in the pre-dominantly Catholic Philippines, nor about the currently charged political climate of the country, he does touch on the subject. His characters note that the conservative Christian President of the Philippines would be likely to come down hard on the college at even the slightest suspicion of terrorist activity, and the actions of the American and Canadian intelligence officers who work with Ava show little regard for the students and staff at the college. The big reveal of the mastermind and motivation behind the events calls to question the assumptions the characters and we as readers have made throughout the story, and the response of various characters to this reveal is sadly all too realistic.
Imam of Tawi Tawi is an engaging and compelling mystery. Ava is forced to come to some tough decisions, and her choices, as well as the reasoning behind them, are a huge part of what makes her such a compelling character and what makes these mysteries such fun to read.
Thank you to House of Anansi for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.