Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Water Rat of Wanchai

Ava Lee #1: “The Water Rat of Wanchai” by Ian Hamilton. Ava Lee is assigned to track down five million dollars cheated from a relative of Uncle’s friend in a fish scam. The trail is easy to follow, but the people in power that Ava must deal with are worse than the crooks, and are easily turned to murder. And their power stretches beyond their own locale. However, they’ve never met someone like Ava Lee, and Uncle’s worldwide connections might prove even more powerful than world dictators.

Although the numbering system appears messed up, this is the first novel in the series. Ava has partnered with Uncle now for over ten years, and their bond is totally Chinese. The author’s writing style is smooth, and the story flows swiftly, even if the trail seems slow. 400 pages seem more like 200 pages, making for a fast read. The characters come alive, though at times it appears Ava finds the culprits and money a bit too easily; it’s the retrieval of the money that can cause problems for her. Thankfully, there isn’t page after page of martial arts, but when the need arises Ava employs bac mai with lethal force. Highly recommended for fans of interesting female leads.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Share A Crooked Rickshaw

Rick Donovan is having a tough time. First a fellow Hong Kong police officer goes missing, then a friend is killed, and that's only the beginning.  Finding love amid the chaos was an unexpected bonus, then that too is in peril as the dangers spill out of control.

Share A Crooked Rickshaw (International Thriller)
By Norman Price
Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN #978-1482391497
Price $10.15
268 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

"A Fascinating Story, And Very Enjoyable."

It’s the 1960s Hong Kong, and Chief Inspector Rick Donovan, of the Shaun-Shui-Po police department is leading a raid on a drug house when one of the perps, a Chinese, a killed by one of the officers. Found in the perp’s pocket is a wallet containing the warrant card of a fellow officer. He is told to look into the evidence, and attempts to contact the officer, but learns from his wife that her husband has been missing for several days. Further investigation becomes even more clouded when the officer doesn’t show up for work. Has he turned, and is working with the Triads, or have they murdered him? To make matters worse, Rick has fallen for the man’s wife, and they begin an affair.

More problems arise when gangster disguised as police set up a road check and rob an army bank run, killing the guards, then a smoke bomb is discovered on a tram, and inside is a demand for one billion American dollars, or a dirty bomb will be detonated over Hong Kong. Both seem connected to the missing officer. But everything goes awry when a typhoon approaches Hong Kong.

This was a fascinating story, and very enjoyable. The author ties the whole plot into the Rachael typhoon of the period, and works it into the plot. There was a neat twist at the end, which was totally unexpected, but I definitely liked. Highly recommended. PULP DEN

Tom Johnson


Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Spy Across The Table

In this exciting international thriller featuring Japanese antiques art dealer and PI Jim Brodie, a double-murder at the Kennedy Center forces Brodie into a dangerous game of espionage—putting him in the crosshairs of the Chinese, North Korean, and American governments.

Jim Brodie is an antiques dealer, Japan expert, and second-generation private investigator. When two theater friends are murdered backstage at a Kennedy Center performance in Washington, DC, he’s devastated—and determined to hunt down the killer. He’s not the only one.

After the attack, Brodie is summoned to the White House. The First Lady was the college roommate of one of the victims, and she enlists Brodie—off the books—to use his Japanese connections to track down the assassin. Homeland Security head Tom Swelley is furious that the White House is meddling and wants Brodie off the case. Why? For the same reason a master Chinese spy known only as Zhou, one of the most dangerous men alive, appears on the scene: Those murders were no random act of violence.

Brodie flies to Tokyo to attend the second of two funerals, when his friend’s daughter Anna is kidnapped during the ceremony. It is then Brodie realizes that the murders were simply bait to draw her out of hiding. Anna, it seems, is the key architect of a top-secret NSA program that gathers the personal secrets of America’s most influential leaders. Secrets so damaging that North Korea and China will stop at nothing to get them.

The Spy Across The Table (International Thriller)
By Barry Lancet
Simon & Shuster
ISBN #978-1476794914
Price $17.10 (Hardback)
448 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“A Thrill Ride A Minute.”

Jim Brodie is in Washington DC visiting the Kennedy Center to watch his Japanese friend’s Kabuki performance when the Japanese designer and another friend are murdered. Afterwards, he is approached by the Secret Service and taken before the First Lady. The stage designer was also a college friend of hers, and she wants Brodie to investigate the murders (you would think the FBI would be called in) . No sooner does he take the case, than Homeland Security agents let by Tom Swelley begin harassing him and beats him up. The case gets more tangled in Japan when he brings the Brodie Detective Agency into the Japanese end of the case.  Korean gangsters kidnap the daughter of the Japanese designer at the funeral, and Brodie discovers she is being transferred to North Korea. He must intercept the transfer, and heads to South Korea with a Marine combat squad to stop them from entering a tunnel on the DMZ. However, the team was spotted and the girl is moved to the border with China. Now Brodie must enter China, but tangles with the Chinese spy, Zhou, and is captured and turned over to Chinese torturers. This is all great stuff in movies and fiction.

This was a nonstop thrill a minute ride, with political stumbling blocks along the way. It is a well-written yarn that kept me turning the pages. There were some things I didn’t like about it, mostly the portrayal of agents in our intelligence departments. Men like Tom Swelley would have been dismissed long before he got out of hand. Everyone has a boss, and heads roll when agents go amok. Another thing is our Ambassadors; they do not go against the President of the United States. They represent the president.  The actions of the American Ambassador to Japan was beyond imbecilic. And finally, let’s look at torture. Yes, torture does exist, and it is horrible. But I can guarantee the Chinese would have obtained what they wanted from Brodie within hours without torture, they didn’t need to use physical torture to get the information they wanted.  But Brodie goes through many days of torture. Now, what happens to a person after they have been tortured for days on end? They don’t get up and fight, or cross China in an automobile. They need physical and mental therapy for months before they can perform anything close to normal. I won’t even discuss the subject of a Chinese spy rescuing Brodie, except to say it wouldn’t happen. Still, with all these things I didn’t like with the story, this is a work of fiction, and as such, it is very entertaining, and I highly recommend it to readers.

Tom Johnson


Saturday, April 15, 2017

The King of Shanghai

The seventh novel in the Ava Lee series finds Ava getting caught up in the election for the chairmanship of the Triad Societies.
Ava steps into her new business with May Ling Wong and her sister-in-law, Amanda. On a trip to Shanghai, Ava meets with Xu, a young man Uncle had been mentoring and who is also the head of the Triad in Shanghai. Xu makes an audacious business proposal that she and May are compelled to consider. Meanwhile, separately and privately, he confides to Ava that he intends to run for the chairmanship of the Triad Societies and attempts to recruit her as his adviser and confidante.
Against her will, Ava becomes enmeshed in Triad warfare and her future is threatened . . .

The King of Shanghai (International Intrigue)
By Ian Hamilton
House of Anasi
ISBN #9781770892460
Price $10.84
388 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

Ava, May Ling, and Amanda are working hard to complete several deals with their new business, The Three Sisters, a few of the deals could cost them upwards of thirty million American dollars, and there are some problems completing the deals for all concerned. To add to Ava’s trouble, they are in Shanghai, where Xu runs the Yan Yee Tong, a powerful Triad organization consisting of over four thousand loyal members. Xu is also running for chairman of all the Triad groups, but is opposed by an older gentleman who wants to run them in the old way. Xu wants to bring youth to the organization, and expand his business. He also wants Ava to be part of the new organization. She is opposed to the idea until an assassin attempt is made on her and Xu, leaving him severely wounded. Now she helps hold the organization together while he recovers, and that means negotiating with the enemy before war breaks out among the Triads.

This was another great Ava Lee adventure, as she travels from Hong Kong to Shanghai, and Canada, while dealing with the new multi-million dollar business, plus diplomatically stopping a triad war.

Tom Johnson

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Two Sisters of Borneo

The Two Sisters of Borneo (International Intrigue)
By Ian Hamilton
House of Anansi Pr
ISBN #978-1770892446
Price $24.95
336 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“Smooth Writing.”

Ava Lee #6: “The Two Sisters of Borneo” by Ian Hamilton. While Ava is staying in Hong Kong caring for an ailing Uncle, she teams up with her sister-in-law Amanda Lee, and May Ling her close friend. With Uncle going to Shanghai with Sunny, Ava decides to the Netherlands to check on a situation facing their business while May Ling and Amanda head for Borneo to check on the problem there. The situation heats up when Amanda and one of the Borneo sisters are injured in an attack that may be the result of the problem they are investigating. Ava flies to Borneo to find the attackers, and contacts the head of the gangsters to buy the information, but she is taken prisoner, and the gangsters want a ransom. This brings trouble from Shanghai, and Uncle dies during his concern for Ava. And this move will eventually bring a new leader to the Triads, a man taking the seat of power once held by Uncle. This was another fantastic novel in the Ava Lee series. Even the funeral of Uncle is a worldwide event, as the Triads come to pay their respect to him and acknowledge Ava.

Tom Johnson