The Wild Beasts of Wuhan by Ian Hamilton is the third book in the Ava Lee series. The first, Water Rat of Wanchai: An Ava Lee Novel and the second, The Disciple of Las Vegas: An Ava Lee Novel, which I included at the tail end of the Around the World in 120 Days for the Virtual Literary World Tour. I am going through a phase where I am exploring authors who reside in the Greater Toronto Area. In the Ava Lee series, the main character, a forensic accountant, travels all over the world to recover money for her clients. Ava partners with “Uncle,” an elderly Chinese man in his 70s who has ties to the Triad, and lives in Hong Kong.
In The Wild Beasts of Wuhan by Ian Hamilton, Ava Lee is on vacation in Curacao with her family. While there, she receives a call from Uncle, telling her about a prospective client who they should meet with. Honoring Chinese culture, she solicits her father’s permission to leave early and head to Hong Kong first, before traveling to Wuhan for the meeting with Wong Changxing, the Emperor of Hubei, and wife number two, May Ling, who is an astute businesswoman.
Wong Changxing has been collecting art, hoping that it will earn him respectability in the eyes of Westerners. There is one piece of art that he doesn’t like very much and decides to have it appraised for sale. Much to his dismay, he and his wife discover that most of the art in his Fauvist collection are high quality fakes, to the cost of over $70 million.
After Ava and Uncle have met with his friend, Wong Changxing and May Ling, they are unsure if the can be of service During the night May Ling goes to Ava’s room hoping to influence her decision as to whether or not they will take the case. It turns out that May Ling is well-schooled in manipulation to get what she wants. Ava and Uncle had decided to turn down the case because Wong and May Ling are seeking revenge, and it wasn’t really about recovering the $70 million – it was more about saving face and not looking like a fool investing in forged art. Ava agrees to do some exploration first before she and Uncle decide to officially take the case. They want to determine if they can solve the case and recover most if not all of the $70 million.
As The Wild Beasts of Wuhan by Ian Hamilton unfolds, we see Ava Lee uncovering a fraudulent art ring, and this is a very tough case to crack. The interesting thing about this book, is that she didn’t do the due diligence that she is known for in the other books, and this shows in her results. To solve the case, Ava travels from Wuhan to Hong Kong to Denmark to London to Dublin to London and New York. She gains an understanding of how the fraudulent art ring works, and who the major players are. As a forensic accountant, Ava excels at following the money trail, and she also invests the money needed to solve her fraud cases.
Maurice O’Toole, who died from cancer, and Jan Sorensen are the two artists who forged the paintings, the respectable Hughes Gallery, Harrington’s an art authenticator were involved in the art forgeries. To recover the $70 million, another forgery is sold to an unsuspecting client, and Ava agrees to the sale. In addition, May Ling hires a hitman to kill Edwin Hughes to teach his brother Glen Hughes a lesson – Glen was deeply involved in the art forgery ring, and orgainzed the lastest sale of another forgery to recover the $70 million. I was very distressed by the way the book ended, and that is one of the disadvantages of reading actively.
In life, we do not always make the best or even the most ethical decisions. And we are often ruled by self-interest, and that’s what makes us human. There are no perfect human beings – we are imperfectly perfcet. Ava Lee is very upset with May Ling for killing Edwin Hughes, but she and Uncle still accept their 30 percent commission from recovering the $70 million. Even though I didn’t enjoy the way the book ended, there are many lessons that we can learn from Ava Lee. She is an expert in her field, and she knows more than just the fundamentals. She understands her function so well that she knows a variety of ways to get to the results she needs so she can create difference scenarios.
When reading fiction, we should not read only the story line, but also read to extract important lessons that we can apply to work and life. I recommend The Wild Beasts of Wuhan by Ian Hamilton. Which books have you read that you learned lessons that you could apply to your work? Please write your comments in the box below. Book links are affiliate links.