As a doula hired to provide guidance and support to pregnant women, Amani Abdelhamid’s foremost concern is for the well-being of mothers and their much-anticipated newborns. One of her appointments goes terribly awry when she arrives to find the mother-to-be, Najat Tagouri, bleeding to death in her bedroom. To make matters worse, her husband is lying on the floor, also dying. Within a matter of minutes, Amani’s life takes a terrible turn when the police find what appears to be the murder weapon in her hand. Charged with three counts of homicide (including the fetus), her future looks very bleak.
No one who knows the doula accepts her guilt. This includes Nahibab Sadiq, who operates a posh shelter for women out of her Richmond mansion. Several of her guests (and one employee) have Amani as their doula. At their urging, Nahibab hires Ari Ciminon (the 56th Man) to prove Amani’s innocence.
Ari immediately becomes entangled with lawyers, social workers, bail bondsmen, an Arabic voice performer who mimics Mel Blanc, a novice PI, a grouchy imam, Latino and Hispanic immigrant laborers and Lubna Obaid—a death doula.
But Ari is on the clock. His injured wife Rana is due to arrive at Portsmouth Naval Hospital within days, if not hours. Riven by guilt because of a sexual indiscretion, he is desperate to make amends. His long-anticipated reconciliation is threatened when he is caught up in a turf war between a cantina owner and a powerful drug cartel. Yet there is more at stake. A dark cloud hovers over Ari’s future. Even his cat suspects the reunion with Rana might cost Ari his life.
Still awaiting the arrival of his injured wife, Ari Ciminon (The 56th Man) is already on a hair-trigger when a sniper wounds his close friend, insurance investigator Elmore Lawson, a disabled veteran who has been looking into a suspicious injury claim at Osprey Pointe, a gated community outside of Richmond, Virginia. Ari’s search for the would-be assassin begins at Lawson’s house, where he encounters Lawson’s autistic nephew, Freddie, a possible witness to the crime. Both Ari and Detective Yvonne Neumann, Lawson’s lover, are keen to take personal revenge on the shooter. As a result of Freddie’s profound terror at the prospect of sharing a public toilet at a Social Services shelter, the boy is put in Neumann’s care. Unable to watch over him during the day, she places him with Ari part-time. But he has no intention of staying put in his safe house and takes Freddie with him in his hunt for the killer—much to the dismay of Freddie, when he discovers Ari has no qualms about using him as a decoy.
Drawn by Elmore’s notes to posh Osprey Pointe, Ari learns that wealth has its drawbacks. For one, the residents are being blackmailed by their own security service. But those same guards have become vulnerable to an outside force they could never have anticipated: Assassins Without Borders.
Confronted by multiple killers is bad enough. But Ari also has to deal with a lusty housewife, Invisible Fencing, scarecrows, hunting dogs, Dollar General, explosive beheadings, cholesterol-laden killer-burgers, overhead speakers, Brazilian banks, Belgian car-exporters, wannabe Nazis, Blu-ray pirates, a reunion between a cat and her kitten that proves less than heart-warming, and a boy who insists on wearing a biohazard suit as a disguise. Topping it all is the reason for the delay in his wife’s arrival: his only surviving son has married a woman named Rachel….
Ari Ciminon (the 56th Man) appreciates beautiful birds and well-crafted weapons. He yearns for a luxury sedan suitable to his aesthetic palate (a Maserati Quattroporte would suit him nicely). But, after his wife, nothing gives him more reason to celebrate life than fine cuisine. He has adapted reasonably well to fast food since being brought to America to provide Michelin-quality intelligence for the war in Iraq. Yet his discovery of French chef Marie Mumford came as a godsend to his grease-soaked gullet. Her beef bourguignon and simple but elegant soupe de poisson à la rouille invariably leave him mad for more. Her high prices are of small matter to someone of Ari's discerning taste. Of late, however, Madame Mumford has been remiss in her visits to Ari's safe house in Richmond. This is due, in part, to the needs of her husband's parents.
Willy and Ruth Mumford live in a small community near Quantico. Suffering from two different forms of dementia, the isolated couple are cared for by their youngest son, Frank. William Mumford, their older son, is convinced Frank has become involved with shady characters who put his parents at risk. In order to get Power of Attorney over them, William and Marie want to enlist Ari to investigate the situation. If he can provide proof that confirms their fears, the reward will be a year's worth of weekly free meals from the inestimable Madame Mumford. Greedy and hungry to a fault, Ari quickly agrees, though fully aware the job includes changing Willy's Depends.
But Ari is not aware that the situation is far worse than imagined. Frank Mumford has become ensnared in a ring that distributes OxyContin throughout the counties north of Fredericksburg. The drug is legal. The means used to attain it are not. And the ring members are not adverse to using torture and murder in order to maintain control over their territory.
Ari is stretched to the limit as he deals with murderous thugs, demented parents, a wily au pair, a semi-amorous invalid, a daily diet of microwavable sausage biscuits, FBI agents practicing their stalking skills and ground-attack aircraft making practice runs over the neighborhood. The battle between him and the drug gang culminates at a sunrise service on the Potomac River, where he learns everyone and everything is…damned.
It is most disconcerting.
Summoned out of his safe house by his handlers, Ari Ciminon (The 56th Man) is shown CCTV footage of a group of men arriving at Richmond International Airport. The group is comprised of: lawyer Benjamin Cassin (nicknamed 'the Rabbi' by his admirers); his bodyguard, Henry Jones (an African-American who has converted to Judaism); a small man dressed as a woman, who turns out to be a deadly assassin; and a mysterious Turk whom neither the FBI nor Mossad has been able to identify. Ari immediately supplies the Turk's name. He is an inoffensive salesman working for a contracting company based in Istanbul.
But the puzzle is far from solved. An empty carry-on left behind by the new arrivals casts a sinister light on the group, and suspicion deepens when the Turk abruptly disappears. Once his business at the airport is concluded, Ari is ordered back to his safe house. Sensing an opportunity for profit that he cannot ignore, he disobediently sets out to find the missing man—only to discover the body of the fabulously wealthy Miriam Fleckenstein, a widow who resides in a mansion outside of Richmond.
He learns of a rumor that Mrs. Fleckenstein intended to leave her wealth to an organization dedicated to peace between Israel and Palestine. This goes against the interests of several dangerous parties. A plot is afoot to discover Mrs. Fleckenstein's will and either bring it to the light of day or suppress it entirely. However, like the Turk, the will has vanished.
The mystery culminates in a grand inquisition in a basketball gym, where Ari (with the assistance of maimed former Marine Elmore Lawson, an insurance company investigator) picks his way through a weed field of killers and con-men to expose the truth—and reveal the unique location of the will. Miriam Fleckenstein returns from the dead…and puts everyone in their place.
Sixth in the Ari Ciminon (The 56th Man) series. Homophobic Ari Ciminon (The 56th Man) almost meets his match when he searches for a young man who has run off with the Thebans, a group of gay bicyclists for whom fitness is paramount. Joey Haider, the son of an official at the Iraqi Consulate, eludes his bodyguard in Richmond. Called in to translate for the guard, Ari quickly becomes embroiled in the search for the boy. This puts him in far more peril than he had anticipated, including a run-in with MS-13. This is not helped by his open antagonism towards the gay community. Even when it appears he will not make a dime for his efforts, his hunt is relentless. It takes him to places he would have once avoided like the plague: a gay hostel, a gay club and a house in an unlikely hamlet tucked away in the Virginia backwoods where the Thebans are targeted for execution. All the while he is shadowed by the mysterious Peter Pan, who might or might be a guardian angel. Ultimately, though, his most dangerous adversary turns out to be his own bad back. Now available at:
I am the author of more than fifteen novels. I was born and raised in Virginia, where I currently reside. I was First-Place Winner of the Hollins Literary Festival a number of years ago. Among the judges were Thomas (Little Big Man) Berger and R.M.W. Dillard, poet and husband of the writer Annie Dillard. Along with my wife, I have rescued and maintained 22 stray cats, which should tell you something about me (good and bad). Permanently addicted to writing, I have just posted the 9th book in the Ari Ciminon (The 56th Man) Series.