Ava has spent two nights luxuriating in a hotel in Yunnan Province with the actress Pang Fai, with whom she has begun a secret relationship. She receives an urgent phone call from Chang Wang, the right hand to the billionaire Tommy Ordonez and one of Uncle’s oldest friends. Years ago, Ava and Uncle helped Tommy recover $50 million in a land swindle.
Chang asks Ava to fly to Manila to meet with his friend, Senator Miguel Ramirez. Ramirez asks Ava to investigate a college in Tawi-Tawi, an island province in the Philippines, which he suspects is training terrorists. Ava’s investigation leads to a partnership with a CIA agent, and together they attempt to stop an international plot, horrific in size and scope, only to have it turn on them. Ava’s judgement and morals — which Uncle helped her forge — are tested like never before.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
After dispensing with mob bosses in Macau, bullies in Borneo, and vicious gamblers in Vegas, Ava Lee—the young Chinese-Canadian forensics expert with a well-thumbed passport and killer martial-arts moves—could be forgiven for taking a vacation. But her tryst with a stunning actress is cut short when Ava catches wind of what appears to be a terrorist training centre in the Philippines. With his 11th Lee instalment, Ian Hamilton knows exactly how to turn out a briskly paced, globe-hopping thriller. The Imam of Tawi-Tawi boasts crisp dialogue, blindsiding twists, and compelling action that will thrill both first-time readers and longtime series fans.
The tense 11th book in Hamilton's Ava Lee series is one of his best. (The Water Rat of Wanchai won an Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel.) The action begins when Ava receives a call from Manila businessman Chang Wang, an old friend of her late mentor, Uncle, with an urgent request: a local senator needs her forensic fact-gathering talents to quietly investigate a suspected jihadist training school on the island of Tawi-Tawi, in the southern Philippines. Ava, a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant, does what she does best: she follows the money used to finance the school, and much of the page-turning action involves Ava scouring through files and following leads at a keyboard. She teams up with CIA agent Alasdair Dulles, and once they realize the frightening scale of the terror plot they race to Tawi-Tawi to try to avert a catastrophe. This time out Hamilton leaves aside Ava's new life as a legitimate businesswoman and throws her into the dark and murky world of global politics and not-so-trustworthy intelligence agencies. Tightly plotted and quick-moving, this is a spare yet terrifically suspenseful novel.