Illicit Trade, by Michael Niemann
Illicit Trade (6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-589-5, 244, $14.95) is the all-new second book in Michael Niemann’s Valentin Vermeulen mystery/thriller series. The story takes place in New York City, Newark, Vienna, and Nairobi. When two illegal immigrants with forged UN papers are found dead, Vermeulen is assigned to investigate. The case will take him deep into the complicated and dangerous world of human trafficking.
Legitimate Business (6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-587-1, 218 pages, $14.95), which introduces United Nations investigator Valentin Vermeulen, takes place in Sudan. A case involving the death of a UN policewoman in Dafur puts Vermeulen in the cross hairs of powerful arms dealers.
Illicit Trade: “Intriguing [….] The unexpected resourcefulness that Vermeulen and Jackson each display in dealing with dangerous foes in their respective quests is highly entertaining.” —Publishers Weekly
“Lee Child has Jack Reacher. Michael Connelly has Harry Bosch. Walter Mosley has Easy Rawlins. Patricia Cornwell has Kay Scarpetta. And Michael Niemann has Valentin Vermuelen […]You don’t need to read the short story and the books in order, like I did, to get the most out of Illicit Trade, but it would be a shame to deprive yourself of the experience.” Read more….
—Alison McMahan, screenwriter, author and filmmaker
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Legitimate Business was a hit with readers and critics:
“A gripping thriller set against the backdrop of one of the most violent regions in the world. Niemann is an excitingly original voice in the genre.” —Michael Stanley, award winning author of the Detective Kubu mysteries
“As soon as I finished this exciting thriller, I wished to start reading again…. Ideology, greed and the other human frailties predominate, while our protagonist Vermeulen is not so much ‘flawed hero,’ as a man who tries to learn from his mistakes and make course corrections: an evolving human.” —The Haunted Reading Room
“Michael Niemann tells a fascinating, highly-entertaining tale amidst the turbulence that is Africa. His knowledge and attention to detail with respect to the inner workings of this UN department rings extremely true and authentic…. A good read!” —Clive Rosengren, two-time Shamus Award finalist
“Michael Niemann’s Legitimate Business is the real deal…. Niemann knows his way around Africa and Vermeulen emerges as a tough and wily hero, backstopped by strong female characters—including a UN peacekeeper and plenty of surprises.” —Ed Battistella, author of Sorry About That. The Language of Public Apology
Legitimate Business: Ritu Roy, a constable with an all-female United Nations peacekeeping unit in Darfur, Sudan, has been shot dead. Her superiors call it a random shooting. Her best friend thinks otherwise. She’s found a bullet casing from a sniper’s rifle, an uncommon weapon in the refugee camp. The case remains closed until Valentin Vermeulen arrives to conduct a routine audit. As an investigator with the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, his job is to ferret out fraud. The casing is the first clue that Ritu may have stumbled onto a major criminal operation.
Solving the mystery of Ritu’s death leads Vermeulen down a perilous path. With the help of journalist Tessa Bishonga, he visits the hidden camp of a notorious rebel leader. On the streets of Port Sudan he dodges a parade of shady characters. In the end, Vermeulen must expose the players in the not so “legitimate” business of supplying weapons to Sudan … before they can hunt him down.
Illicit Trade: Two poor Kenyan men visiting the U.S. are found dead, one in jail, one on the street. Both used forged UN documents to enter the country. Valentin Vermeulen’s superiors have no interest in the plight of undocumented immigrants, but they want him to stop the fraud. The clues take Vermeulen from New York City to Newark, where he riles a woman known as “The Broker,” then to Vienna.
Earle Jackson, a small-time hustler and the last person to speak with one of the dead Kenyans, has taken the man’s passport and money. He also finds a note listing an address in Newark, where his efforts to cash in on the situation go awry. Fleeing for his life, Jackson flies to Nairobi using the dead man’s passport.
Vermeulen and Jackson have chanced upon a criminal network more extensive and vicious than either could have imagined. To survive, Vermeulen must do more than sever a few links. He must find the mastermind at the top.
Says Niemann: “Both novels were inspired by actual events. I wrote Legitimate Business after reading an article about faulty armored personnel carriers that had been shipped to UN peacekeepers in Darfur. Illicit Trade was inspired by a report that a UN employee had sold forged UN invitation letters to individuals who used them to obtain visas to the U.S. Both events led me to stories dealing with weapons trade and human trafficking, cases tailor-made for Valentin Vermeulen.”
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 switched to mysteries as a different way to write about the world. For more information, click here.