Title: No Right Way
Series: A Valentin Vermeulen Thriller Book 4
Author: Michael Niemann
Publisher: Coffeetown Press
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Genre: Mystery, International Thriller
The fall of 2015. It’s been four years since the civil war in Syria
started and over a year since ISIS took over major parts of the country.
The refugee stream into Turkey has swelled to unprecedented numbers.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is
scrambling to offer services and shelter to the multitudes. The Turkish
government is doing what it can. Money from the rest of the world and
European governments is flowing in to help alleviate the crisis. Numerous
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are using UN funds to do
the on-the-ground work to house and feed refugees.
Valentin Vermeulen’s job is to make sure that all those funds are spent for
their intended purposes. As he digs into his task, he learns that some
refugees have not received any aid at all. Figuring out why that
is quickly lands him in trouble with organize crime.
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An Excerpt from No Right Way
Ahmadi was ready to crawl into her tent and sleep forever. Her back ached from bending over all day. The grapes hung too low to cut them standing up and kneeling on the stony dirt was out of the question.
Zada still wasn’t back from wherever she’d gone. The two women shared a tent. It had started as a cohabitation of convenience. Being a single woman in a refugee camp was difficult. The married women were suspicious and their husbands leered. In a matter of days, they became friends. Despite their age difference—Zada was forty, fifteen years older than Ahmadi—they found that their journey from middle class life to refugee was similar. Zada’s husband died fighting with a rebel militia against the Assad regime. Shortly after burying him, her house was destroyed by a missile that killed her two children. Ahmadi hadn’t lost a husband or children, but her parents’ and siblings’ fate had been the same. They didn’t talk much about their loss. What was there to say? It was the trials of being a refugee that forged their bond. They had each other’s back through the daily misery of picking grapes.
Ahmadi needed to eat to keep up her strength. Resting first meant she’d miss the evening meal. Rahel had invited her after learning that Zada had disappeared. Which was kind, especially since Rahel’s family was Christian and she was a Muslim. But Rahel understood the precarious position of single women and the importance of protecting one’s honor.
Back home, Ahmadi considered the idea of honor old-fashioned. Being passed from your father to your husband didn’t appeal to her. She went to the university, she could take care of herself. Or so she thought. In the refugee camp that self-sufficiency had evaporated like morning mist in the September sun. What little pay she received for picking disappeared so fast. The agent who got her the picking job got his cut, the tent rental took another bite, leaving her with just enough for food. Zada did the cooking. Another one of those things Ahmadi wasn’t good at. She’d never had to cook for herself. She took two apples and went to Rahel’s tent.
“Salam,” she said when she entered. Rahel’s husband sat in a rickety chair in one corner, her three children, including the teenage son, sat on the ground. They were all bent over plastic bowls eating their supper. The children returned the greeting. Rahel’s husband grunted something.
“I brought some apples,” Ahmadi said.
Rahel took them and passed her a bowl of couscous and thin stew. “Shokran,” Ahmadi said.
“Al’afw,” Rahel said. “Sit. Enjoy the food.”
Ahmadi squatted near the entrance and ate. The stew was spicy, but all the peppers in the world couldn’t make up for the fact that it was mostly broth with some onions and bits of gristly mutton. Rahel cut the two apples Ahmadi brought into pieces, gave the biggest to her husband, and the rest to the kids. She kept a couple of pieces for Ahmadi and herself.
The tent flap opened and a woman looked inside and said that the police had found Zada.
“Where is she?” Ahmadi said, jumping up and almost spilling her food.
“She’s dead,” the woman said. “They found her body in an olive grove near the border.”
Ahmadi fell to her knees, barely able to put the bowl down. She covered her face with her hands.
“Who found her?” Rahel said.
“Workers checking on the olive trees. They called the police.”
“How’d she get there? How did she die?”
“I don’t know. The men said they didn’t see any injuries.”
The flap closed again and the woman went to the next tent to break the news. Ahmadi stood, unable to move. Zada had been her guide in this crazy world. How could she go on now?
Rahel put her arm on Rima’s shoulder. “Such sad news. You liked Zada very much.”
Ahmadi held back her tears and sighed deeply. But she didn’t break out in a wail. Zada’s death was her private grief, nothing to be mourned in public.
“Stay here tonight,” Rahel said. “It’s not good to be alone when one is full of sorrow.”
Ahmadi shook her head. No, she wasn’t going to stay there. “Thank you for your offer, but I’ll be okay. I’m going to find out what happened to Zada.”
“What do you mean?”
“Yesterday, Zada told me she learned something important. Today she is dead. That can’t be a coincidence. I need to find out what she learned.”
“Oh Ahmadi, you are distraught. Stay here and calm yourself. This is for the police to sort out.”
“The Turkish police? Haven’t you seen how they disdain us? We are just Syrian refugees. One less to worry about.”
“So you’re going to investigate?” Rahel’s husband said. “How far d’you think you’ll get? You are right about the Turkish police, and they won’t like it if you stick your nose into their business.”
Ahmadi looked at him, frowning. Those were the most words she’d ever heard from that man.
“Thomen is right,” Rahel said. “This is not a matter for a single woman.”
“Listen, Zada knew that we weren’t treated right. She wanted to make our lives better. Now she is dead. I’m going to find out what happened. Her death wasn’t an accident.”
“How do you know?” Rahel said. “Maybe she lost her spirit and her heart gave out. She was all alone in a foreign land. Without family. She had no one.”
“She had me,” Ahmadi said. “Thank you for the meal. You have been very kind.”
She went back to her tent. Inside, she zipped the flap shut and began to search Zada’s things. There was a suitcase and a large bag. She started with the suitcase. It was a wardrobe assembled not with logic but in panic. Several plain skirts, a dress wholly impractical for harvesting grapes, a few shirts, a silk blouse she’d never seen Zada wear. How do you pack when you have only a few moments and think you’ll be back soon?
Excerpted from NO RIGHT WAY. Copyright (c) 2019 by Michael Niemann. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he embarked on a different way to write about the world.
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“Niemann blends an unusual locale with an appealing, relatable hero
while drawing attention to the plight of refugees.”—Publishers Weekly