Who’s afraid of a number cruncher? Sometimes, it seems like the whole world is….

“You are a mercenary, Ms. Lee.”
“I am an accountant,” she said.


Oh those accountants. We think of them as being earnest and a bit dull, the kind of people who disappear into the woodwork.

Not Ava Lee.

She’s a Torontonian, and a forensic accountant.

She specializes in recovering large sums of money stolen from investors by unscrupulous bad guys. And she’ll do just about anything to get the cash back, except inflict permanent physical damage to human beings. Well, unless there’s no other choice.

She gets a 15 percent cut, and her boss gets the same. Author Ian Hamilton introduced the blunt and determined Ava Lee in The Water Rat Of Wanchai (2011, filed in the Lennoxville Library in Adult Fiction). Lee works at a break-neck pace, and travels all over the world (shopping at high-end stores and staying in four-star hotels), though she seems to have the best success in places where there’s little in terms of law and order as Westerners understand it. Lee’s aged boss, mentor and fixer is an alumnus of organized crime, with contacts spread around a good chunk of the world.

Hamilton went on to write a whole series for Lee; you can request number two, The Disciple Of Las Vegas [2011], via interlibrary loan (they really should be read in order); follow that up with the next three, which you can find on Lennoxville Library shelves – The Wild Beasts Of Wuhan [2012], The Red Pole Of Macau [2012], and The Scottish Banker Of Surabaya [2013]. The books become darker as the series progresses, and so does the violence.

There is, it turns out, all sorts of drama in the ever shifting columns of numbers that accountants spend their work lives confirming.

Consider auditor Marta Dickens, found murdered a mere few hours after she takes on a handful of new clients. Are these events connected?

Lt. Eve Dallas and her policing partner, Det. Delia Peabody, set out to discover whodunit in Calculated In Death (2013, filed in Adult Large Print; with thanks to the Tillotson Foundation of Coaticook, which put this book on Lennoxville Library shelves). Author J.D. Robb has created an Eve Dallas collection of procedurals (titled the “In Death” series) set just slightly into the future – about 45 years, just enough time for a handful of new technologies to hit the mainstream, but it’s essentially still the world we know. Cola comes in tubes and cars have an autopilot option, but vending machines still act up and people still act out.

Unlike many in the genre, copper Eve Dallas has a happy personal life (and the series has a decidedly female bent); she cares deeply about the victims of crime, and their families. Dallas won’t give up until she finds out who’s afraid of a number cruncher.

The book’s written by J.D. Robb, a pen name of the best-selling romance novelist Nora Roberts, and the series has been optioned by a movie maker. (Note that Calculated In Death includes spoilers for a previous novel; you’ve been warned! The library has a large number of the In Death series; if you’re the sort who must start from the beginning, make an interlibrary loan request for Glory In Death, from back in 1995 – it was the second to be written.…)

Acclaimed mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark has also used an accountant as a lynchpin for a whodunit. Kate Connelly, a certified public accountant, ends up at her father’s furniture factory in the middle of the night, and is almost killed in an explosion.

Did she open the gas valve and not get out in time? Or did someone else set off the explosion? The business is failing, and the insurance payout would be impressive….

The novel is Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting (2013, filed in Adult Fiction); there’s an ensemble cast of neighbours, friends, acquaintances, fire marshals, and others, most of whom have something to hide. But if one had to choose a main character, it would Kate’s sister, Hannah, a fashion designer about to hit the big time, who sets it all aside to prove Kate didn’t do it.

Here’s one more fictional accountant: poor schmuck Gus Hollister, who can manage the money of others but not his own. He married a gold digger without a pre-nup and is about to lose everything.

He’s already lost the rest of his family. In his single-minded pursuit of the creep, he froze out his granny and two aunties, and now has nowhere to turn for help. Yet these three siblings will end up playing a huge role in his new life.

The Blossom Sisters (2013, filed in Adult Fiction), written by romance and thriller novelist Fern Michaels, is a gently humourous tale of misplaced love, friendship, and senior citizens who have more gumption than you might think. Still, everyone who’s in business needs a good numbers person…  and The Blossom Sisters gives us an accountant seeking to make things right. It’s a fast and entertaining read. (Many thanks to Janice Fraser, who adopted this book for the library during our annual Adopt A Book fundraiser.)

Want to learn a bit about book keeping and accounting, but math makes your heart beat a little too fast for comfort? The Kids’ Business Book (by Arlene Erlbach, 1998, filed at 658.02 in the shelf numbered C-530 in the children’s section) is a good way to start. It’s also a great business primer for those looking for a job. Perhaps create your own?

My favorite suggestion involves making high school team sports cards, with profits going back into the school sports program.

As the author explains, Profit = Income minus Expenses.

You won’t know anything about anything until you research your potential expenses. And making a profit is not automatic. Never invest money into a new business that you cannot afford to lose, because yeah, you might lose it, your shirt, and everything else. Surveys, research and pre-sales – that’s the bare minimum.

While this kind of work won’t make you into an accountant, it’s a great way to learn the basics of business. The stuff of business is something we should all understand. And there’s nothing dull about it!

— Eleanor Brown, January 8, 2016


About BiblioLennLibrary

The Lennoxville Library, in Quebec's Eastern Townships, offers free memberships to all residents of Sherbrooke. We have a great selection of books in French and English, plus books on tape and CD, too! Check out our large-print section, our graphic novels... La Biblio Lennoxville se situe dans les Cantons-de-l'Est du Quebec. Les residents de Sherbrooke peuvent devenir membre gratuitement. Nous avons une grande selection de livres en francais et en anglais. Venez donc nous voir! Hours/Heures d'ouverture: Mardi-Tuesday, 10am to 5pm -- 10h a 17h Mercredi et Jeudi -Wednesday and Thursday, 10am to 6pm -- 10h a 18h Vendredi-Friday, 10am to 5pm -- 10h a 17h Samedi-Saturday, 11am to 4pm -- 11h a 16h Pour plus d'info, vous pouvez nous trouver au http://www.bibliolennoxvillelibrary.ca/ Click on the above to get to our website!
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