Dave and I had a thumb war when the advance copy of Ian Hamilton's third mystery arrived. He won, but somehow I finagled the book away from him and read it over the holidays. To be honest, I really had no choice because I LOVE Ava Lee, Hamilton's smart, tough, and quirky character. For those who have not read the series (and you should!) Ava is a "forensic accountant" who follows the trail of big money. She has master manipulating skills to get the money back to her client, and when those don't work she relies on bak mei, an ancient martial art.
In The Wild Beasts of Wuhan, the third book in the series, Ava is hired by Wong Changxing, “The Emperor of Hubei” and one of the most powerful men in China, after he discovers that his collection of Fauvist paintings are in fact forgeries. Ava's search for the fraudulent art dealers takes her to Denmark, Dublin, London and New York. Just as in the previous books, Hamilton has every detail pitch perfect. After finishing Wild Beasts, I wished the fourth book was already available because I am desperate to know what happens next to Ava.
Crime fiction is full of iconic leading men who have reconciled colourful pasts, but Brad Smith has a more relaxed and less obvious character in Virgil Cain.
He's has the wild past, but for now he's happy enough just running his upstate New York farm. When police confront him over the death of Mickey Dupree, a criminal attorney found with a gold club through his chest, Virgil finds himself in jail pretty quickly. To make things right, Virgil has to find the real killer. This means breaking out of jail. Things get weird after that...
Smith's publisher is billing Red Means Run as 'country noir' and that makes perfect sense, as the title recalls a Neil Young lyric and I think this is a book that the late Warren Zevon would have loved.
Brad Smith has had success with his previous books. He shares many similarities with his character Virgil. Both have had a lot of jobs, both are decidedly blue collar, and Virgil is very easy to get to know. I'm sure the same will be true with Brad when he comes to Waterloo on Feb. 1 to join another favourite crime guy around here, Ian Hamilton.