About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Two Sisters of Borneo by Ian Hamilton

(39. – 969.) The Two Sisters of Borneo by Ian Hamilton – Ava Lee is at the third wedding she has attended in her life. She is maid of honour for her friend, Amanda Yee, who is marrying her half-brother, Michael, in a lavish Hong Kong wedding.

Hamilton provides a vivid description of the ostentatious lifestyle of wealthy residents of Hong Kong. The wedding meal will cost US$700 per person for almost 1,000 guests. Cash gifts to the newly weds are expected to total US$700,000.

At the same time Ava is pre-occupied by Uncle who is dying. The end is coming too quickly for her but taking place in slow motion. While his body fails his mind is as sharp as ever.

Business intrudes upon Ava. May Ling Wong, the business partner of Ava and Amanda, advises Ava that millions of dollars have been lost in one of their business ventures.

The trio had invested $25 million into a furniture manufacturing business in Borneo. It had been owned by two brothers and two sisters. The brothers, more concerned with an expensive and idle lifestyle, had little active role in the business. Their sisters, Ah-Pei and Chi-Tze especially Ah-Pei, had built it into a successful venture.

The business is now on the edge of bankruptcy because it had sold all its $20 million inventory to a long standing Dutch customer. However, contrary to good business practice the brothers agreed to terms that provided no deposit or security.

The Dutch company has now gone bankrupt and there is a secured creditor for $20 million.

The deal stinks and Ava, having retired from “debt recovery” Chinese people around the world, now returns to investigating fraud.

She is soon in the Netherlands where rigid bankruptcy laws give priority to the secured creditor.

When Ava finds out there are essentially no other secured or unsecured creditors she is certain the deal is corrupt. No business goes bankrupt with such an alignment of creditors.

In the Netherlands she finds an interesting private detective, Jacob Smits, a short man rotund and fond of Dutch beer. He undertakes to seek out financial records.

In Borneo Amanda and May Ling hire a lawyer to go after the brothers.

As usual with the series the story unfolds in multiple countries over several continents.

I was glad to see much of the book unraveling financial intrigues.

At the same time violence does play a significant role in the book. I appreciated the violence was not overwhelming.

The triads of which Uncle was chairman for a period of time are always lurking in the background. The series engages in a delicate balance. The scammers cannot be dealt with by conventional legal redress. Yet using organized crime to take them down takes Ava into an informal association with the triads. She has some unease over her relationship with the gangs but they are so useful when violence is the solution.

The Two Sisters of Borneo is engaging and the story flows swiftly. The series is strongly progressive. Readers miss a lot if they just dip into the series. While not a cliffhanger the ending sets up an interesting plot line for the next book.


  1. I agree with you, Bill, that this series is best read in order. It's good to hear (I've not quite gotten this far in the series) that the focus is on the financial this time. I think that makes the books better. And now I'm curious as to where Ava might be going next...

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Ava is a great character. I equally hope she spends her time on financial challenges. I do regret that she appears to be spending less and less time in Canada.

  2. I have just recently discovered Ava Lee. I've read the prequel to the series, The Dragonhead of Hong King, and the first book, The Water Rat of Wanchai, and intend to get back to the series.

    But, wait! - Uncle is dying?! This is terrible news. I guess I should really take the time to enjoy him while I can as I read through the next books.

    1. Debbie: Thanks for the comment. I did not mean to startle you with bad news about Uncle. He has been an important part of the series. I look forward to comments as you progress through the series.

  3. I was recently reminded of this series, and am determined to get to it - of course, starting from the beginning.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. Ava is a memorable character and always stylishly dressed. Hamilton writes very well about clothes.

  4. I have my copy of Disciple of Las Vegas ready to read soon. I am glad to see you liked this book in the series.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Hamilton has done a good job of making me want to read the next in the series.