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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


Hong Kong, 1970. The Dragon Head (also known as the Mountain Master) of the Fanling Triad has died and there is a struggle to replace him among senior members of the gang. Normally, the Deputy Mountain Master is next in line, but this one is weak and ineffectual and has only survived because of the protection of the Dragon Head. Up to this point, the Fanling Triad has operated in relative isolation from neighbouring gangs, but the Dragon Head’s death has drawn attention to the area — and to its wealth. Other gangs start to make threatening moves and it’s obvious to the senior members of the Fanling Triad that they need a leader who can fend off the threats, unite the membership, and maintain their prosperity. There are several candidates. The least conspicuous is the White Paper Fan, their young administrator. His name is Chow Tung, but many of those who work with him already refer to him as “Uncle” . . .

Fate (Mystery)
By Ian Hamilton
House of Anansi Press
ISBN #978-1487003869
Price $15.95 (Paperback)
Price $9.99 (Kindle
304 Pages
Rating 3-Stars


This is the story of Chow Tung, known to friends as “Uncle”, a form of respect, though he’s still a fairly young man in his thirties.  His position in the Fanling triads is that of White Paper Fan because he’s good with numbers. It chronicles his escape from communist China to Hong Kong, then jumps ahead a decade when the Mountain Master of the Fanling triads is killed by a hit & run driver, leaving their leadership vacant. Basically the story follows the trouble of electing a new leader. How boring can you get?

Readers of Ian Hamilton have been familiar with Uncle through the Ava Lee series, about a Chinese/Canadian girl who follows the money in crooked deals leaving someone needing her help. One of her cases came to the attention of Uncle, and he uses his power to assist her. The early stories of Ava Lee were topnotch and interesting mysteries. But the last couple of Ava Lee stories were below par for the author, and left the reader less satisfied in her, and for some reason the author has decided to feature Uncle in his own stories. Unfortunately, this first entry was boring. We’re talking triads, and criminal gangs in Hong Kong, so you would think there’d be lots of action. There isn’t.  When there is action, there’s really no tension in the setting. We do learn the command structure of the triads, and even an overly long funeral for one of the leaders. We know from the beginning that Uncle will end up as the new Mountain Master, even though he’s trying to put someone else in the office. It’s Uncle that sees the problems and sets things on the right course, so he’s already performing as their leader. If you’re interested in the structure of the triad gangsters, this book will help you. Although I would suggest you read the early Ava Lee stories for that. If you’re looking for a good action novel, it isn’t here. Again, those early Ava Lee entries are your best bet.

Tom Johnson


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