Hong Kong: Can a Forensic Accountant Save Her Wealthy Family from Financial Ruin?

Book Review

A Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant, who happens to be a lesbian, learns that her half-brother is threatened with  financial ruin and her family faces disgrace. Can her martial arts skills save the day?


The Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, is site of much of the action in ‘The Red Pole of Macau’. Photo Credit: Mandarin Oriental Hotels..


The Red Pole of Macau was written by Canadian author Ian Hamilton. It was published in 2012. It is the 5th book in the Ava Lee series.

“Ava Lee woke to the sensation of lips kissing her forehead,” the book begins.

“She opened her eyes to semi-darkness and saw her girlfriend, Maria, hovering over her face in shadow. Ava extended her arms, but Maria, hovering over her, her face in shadow. Ava extended her arms, but Maria shook her head and passed over the phone. ‘He says his name is Michael, and that he’s your half-brother,' she said."

So begins The Red Pole of Macau, the 5th book in the Ava Lee crime series by Canadian author Ian Hamilton.

But if you’re expecting (or hoping for) torrid lesbian love scenes depicted in graphic detail, you might want to leave this book on the bookshelf.

The fact that Ava is a lesbian is incidental to the plot. Her sexuality is only mentioned a couple of times in the book.

Forensic Accountant

Ava Lee is a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who specializes in recovering large debts that are unlikely to be recovered through traditional methods – and her methods of recovery are anything but traditional.

Not only does Ava have a lawyer’s legal mind and an accountant’s attention to detail, she has powerful contacts. She is also a trained martial artist and capable of issuing a lethal blow should the need arise.

In The Red Pole of Macaul, a multi-million dollar real estate deal goes sour, and Ava’s half-brother is faced with financial ruin. The bank is threatening to foreclose on a massive loan, and the developers are demanding yet more money.

Can Ava salvage the deal, get her brother’s money back, and protect her family’s reputation without having to resort to bloodshed?

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book is how much of it rang true. Ian gets most of his facts right. There are only occasional and insignificant lapses in terms of geography or dates.

He gets the date of Macau’s return to Chinese administration mixed up, for example, and he puts The City of Dreams at the wrong end of the Cotai Strip.

The protagonist’s frequent trips across Victoria Harbour by way of the Star Ferry also seem a bit far-fetched as in most cases they would take her way too far out of her way.

But I assume this is a mere literary device: the Star Ferry seems so much more colourful than a trip by MTR.

Shady Real Estate Transactions

But these are mere quibbles. Much of the tale seems so plausible that it is almost believable. Shady real estate transactions have long been a part of the landscape in Macau, and property developments did get put on hold at the time the story takes place.

I stumbled across the book  while visiting the Seattle Mystery Bookshop during a trip to the United States

The real reason I bought the book was because I had lived in Macau and I live in Hong Kong, and I thought it would be fun to read a book set in places that I was both familiar with and fascinated by.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy the book as much as I did. It was the quintessential page turner, and I highly recommend it. I have, in fact, already read the book twice.

My only disappointment is that I haven’t been able to find a bookshop in Hong Kong that sells other books in the Ava Lee series.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have bought the entire series at the bookshop in Seattle.

Click here to buy the book: The Red Pole of Macau: An Ava Lee Novel

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Talking Points

Have you read any books by Ian Hamilton? What did you think of them?

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