A stunning police procedural debut from one of Nigeria's young up-and-coming talents, Treachery in the Yard introduces an electrifying new setting to the world of international crime fiction
Detective Peterside is drawn into the politics of Nigeria when a bomb goes off at Mr. Pius Okpara's home. Mr. Okpara is locked in a conflict with a political rival, as both men are seeking their party's nomination prior to the general election.
As Detective Peterside investigates, one murder leads to another and soon events appear to be spiraling out of control. The more he digs, the more corruption surfaces. Soon he is not sure whom to trust, including even his own mentor.
An intriguing blend of locale and familiar police procedure, Treachery in the Yard provides a unique brand of international suspense.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
ADIMCHINMA IBE was born in Nigeria in 1977. This is his first novel in the Detective Peterside police procedural series.
Read an Excerpt
Treachery in the yard
A Nigerian Thriller
By Adimchinma Ibe, Victor Schwartzman
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2010 Adimchinma Ibe
All rights reserved.
The lead officer briefed us as we walked through the chaotic scene. Burnt pieces of furniture, blackened soot, and plaster were everywhere. Smoke billowed from the dying flames. Some medics carried the wounded and dead from the inferno while others searched for survivors.
Police from every district had been called to the scene. They were having a hard time controlling the surging crowd. They all wanted to see. The heat from the fire, combined with the heat from the sun, made the scene feel like hell itself.
The explosion destroyed Pius Okpara's garage and most of his home. Okpara was running for the statehouse. He was an important politician in the middle of an angry nomination battle to head the National Conservative Party's banner. He had initially been his party's only candidate, but then Dr. Vincent Puene came into the race, and suddenly Okpara had to deal with an opponent. Now Okpara would have to win the party primaries. If he survived.
Okpara lived in GRA Phase II — the Government Reservation Area, densely populated with some of Port Harcourt's wealthiest.
Okpara's compound was large and spacious. The main building was at the far side of the only entrance into the compound. A high fence and an equally massive bulletproof iron gate painted brown protected the area. The building itself was a modern design duplex with wall-to-wall cream Italian marble. Aluminum long-span roofing sheets and wire gauze lined the top of the fencing. There was a basketball court that I bet was rarely used unless his son visited Nigeria, which rarely happened.
Here and there in the destruction were pieces of artwork, objects of aesthetic beauty and chinaware of high value. He must have a strong appreciation for the finer things in life. Only one thing was missing: a swimming pool. Perhaps he was not a good swimmer.
The bomb had been placed in the garage, and when it went off, it took with it the garage's large front door, the rooms above, and the walls. What was left of the garage was black soot and iron rods. Whoever placed the bomb took their work seriously. And the house? What was left was in flames, with firefighters from the Divisional Fire Service hosing it down. Two house staff members had been found dead already, and three who were seriously injured were on their way to the hospital. Okpara himself had apparently not been seriously injured, but of course, he was the first one rushed off in an ambulance, given his status. Mrs. Okpara had not been at home, in fact she was not even in the country. She was visiting their son, who was a police officer in England.
The neighboring buildings were not too badly damaged. The worst damage was to the home to the right of Okpara's duplex, a house owned by a retired military officer, Major Augustine Eke. The two buildings were separated by a twelve-foot-high concrete fence. Augustine had been at the military officers' golf course and had come home five minutes after the explosion. He was lucky to have been away; his wall facing Okpara's house was riddled with shrapnel, the windows of his house blown out.
On the other side of Okpara's house was a duplex, which was set back on the far side of the garage area, so the damage was not as bad. Six windows were broken, the shattered glass crunching under us as my partner, Olufemi Adegbola — Femi for short — and I walked through the wreckage. It was noisy, dirty, and smoky, with the smell of dirty politics in the air.
After talking with the lead officer, I had him assign some police to canvass the area for witnesses. There were not too many police — most were busy organizing the crime scene and ensuring everyone had been evacuated from the damaged or destroyed homes. We all felt the bombing had been a professional job; the device had been well placed in the garage, which could not have been easy given Okpara's security.
Emergency crews were looking for other bombs, live electrical wires, anything that could be a danger. They were fine at their jobs. For Femi and myself, all we needed for the moment was an overview of what had happened, and to stand back and let the field staff do their work.
I watched Darlington Nnadozie, the officer leading the bomb squad, set up his equipment. He was a young officer in his prime. His lean frame made him look like an athlete rather than a police officer. We knew each other, though our work did not often bring us together.
Darlington was a warm, enthusiastic individual, typically very bright and full of potential. But he had one problem: He placed no importance on details in an investigation. I can become obsessed with minor details. These details may seem to be extremely unimportant, but in reality, they can be critical. But what could I expect from a detective who only has computers and electronic gadgets to play with? He was a forensics man. He had no real contact with people.
Mostly I dealt with people who were shot, stabbed, or poisoned. Rarely were my homicides the result of an explosion. The average homicidal Nigerian could not afford to bomb anyone, and blowing someone up is very expensive and requires planning. Most murders are impulsive and done on the cheap, with whatever is at hand: a knife, a hammer, a fist. Bombs usually mean organization and advance planning and money.
I walked over as he struggled into his coveralls to start his job.
"Hello, Darlington," I said. "Nice morning to be outside, eh?" We shook hands. "What do we have here?"
He shrugged. "Five to six more hours of hard work. Can't tell you anything worthwhile yet. Maybe you'll want to go and interview some witnesses, or drink some beer, or whatever it is you do."
"Beer? Fine with me. Though Captain Akpan might not approve."
"He would if you were field staff."
"I'd rather be in my office than crawl through the rubble. I'm happier interviewing witnesses. Even when they lie a lot."
He shrugged again. "Will you bring back a beer, at least?"
"What makes you think I'm coming back?"
He and his crew went to work. The lead officer came up to tell me his men had turned up some witnesses. One of his staff led me to the home across the street, where I met Mrs. Naomi Karibi. She was the wife of a state judge, and the mother of two teenage boys and a daughter. She had been the only one home, and described seeing a heavy-set man, over six feet tall, driving an old weatherbeaten white Peugeot 305 away from the area after the explosion. She had seen the car a few times in the neighborhood the last few days. She deliberately stayed aware of anyone or anything suspicious in the neighborhood — her judge husband had made his fair share of enemies.
She said that she had seen the man walking into the compound before the explosion. How long before, she was not sure. She had been relaxing on her patio. She saw him park and walk into the compound. She had gotten a cell phone call, and was talking to her daughter when the garage blew apart. The man ran from the scene to his car, holding a white kerchief to his face. He was bleeding from the ear. She had time to get his license number and write it down. My kind of woman — well, she was a judge's wife.
"I didn't see which way he drove off, but he was the one who set the bomb. Why else would he have run away? I had thought he was a politician who had come to see Okpara, like the rest of them. People often come on a pilgrimage to Okpara. There was nothing strange about him, until after the explosion."
"What makes you think he set off the bomb? If he set it off, wouldn't he have first gotten away?"
"He ran out. He was bleeding. If he was legitimate, why was he running? I was just ready to leave the patio to see where he drove off when I heard the second explosion."
"Second explosion? There was a second?"
"Oh yes. Bigger than the first. That was when the garage caved in and caught fire."
Femi and I interviewed, separately, more witnesses. Other people also saw the man enter the Peugeot immediately after the explosions, his ear bleeding. The car had been parked near the Karibis' home.
Darlington's group had finished their initial examination of the blast scene and was in the process of collecting evidence by the time we were through interviewing witnesses. He thought the bomb was on a raised platform inches from the floor — otherwise the impact crater would have been larger — and that it may have detonated prematurely. He thought there was nothing tricky about the bomb, that it probably detonated on a table. However, a larger blast followed, in another part of the garage — that was the one that took the garage out, along with part of the adjoining house.
As I finished my talk with Darlington, I noticed Okpara's personal assistant, Stephen Wike, walking with Kola Badmus, a newspaper reporter I knew. Wike was wearing a long-sleeved buba, pants, and a Fila hat.
He looked nervous. Maybe he was upset that his boss had been nearly blown apart, maybe it was something else. Today, though, he seemed to have lost his ability to remain unruffled. I approached him.
"Who are you?" he asked sharply. "I have a general press conference in about thirty minutes. You can ask your questions then. I'm doing an exclusive here."
I brought out my badge. "Homicide. Detective Tamunoemi Peterside. I want to ask you about the bombing."
He backed off a bit. "You're police?"
Kola did not say anything, but he did not back away, either. He stayed, listening.
I put away the badge. "You were in the house?"
"Yes. It was terrifying. I'm lucky to be alive."
"Any ideas who was behind it?"
"Did Okpara receive any threatening calls or letters?"
"Not that I know of."
"Who hated him this much?"
"No one I know of. I don't think his opponents would try to kill him, at least not like this." Something about his tone was not right. He was afraid, of me. Why would he be worried about the police?
"What about Dr. Puene?"
"I can't see it. Yes, Puene is an opponent. But I can't imagine he'd try to murder anyone. That's absurd." However, he failed the eye-contact test.
This was getting interesting.
"I'd like to talk with you some more later," I told him. He just nodded and, with apparent relief, went back to answering Kola's questions as I walked away.
It would be hours before forensics came up with more than what we already knew. I decided to pay a visit to Dr. Puene, Okpara's opponent.
I phoned Staff Sergeant Okoro and asked him to run the license-plate number Mrs. Karibi gave us. "Femi and I are on our way to Dr. Puene's. Keep any information you get on that car until we get back. Only I should get it. Clear, sergeant?"
Okoro was older than even Chief and me. He had joined the force as a young school leaver thirty years ago, and was billed to retire soon. He rose through the ranks to become a staff sergeant. An experienced police officer but a dweeb. We all wondered what he did with his money. He did not buy clothes and had worn one pair of shoes for as long as I could remember. He had left his family in the village to live a better life, but he was not a bad man, just selfish. He was honest, friendly, and competent — at least when he was sober.
I sighed, then took out my cell and phoned Freda Agboke, my girlfriend. I had to tell her I would miss lunch. The explosion and investigation were all the explanation she needed. We agreed to do dinner instead. Then I went back to my car with Femi, and we drove to Rumuokoro, to speak with Dr. Puene.CHAPTER 2
The estate in Rumuokoro had no paved streets, but the owners had started paving them on their own, without government help. They had the money to do it. They even had industrial generating sets for a private power supply — there were regular power failures throughout Port Harcourt. They sunk boreholes and built overhead water tanks for storage. They even arranged their own security. Rumuokoro was its own little world, filled with big people.
At Dr. Puene's, a uniformed guard stood in front of a big red-painted iron gate.
"Police," I told the guard. When he just stood there, I showed him my badge. He opened the gate.
The compound was big, with three buildings. Paradise on earth ... for Port Harcourt, anyway. The buildings were big enough so each was a compound of its own. Painted a cream color, with dark red roofing, the buildings looked alike, differing only in size and shape. A gleaming black Toyota Limited SUV with tinted glass stood in the driveway. When I got out of the car I straightened my suit. Best to look nice for the rich. We got out and started for the front door of the largest building, not wasting any time with the supplicants milling about, waiting to see the doctor, hoping for some largesse.
A mobile policeman in a very crisp uniform and holding a combat rifle guarded the front door. He looked too well fed to be Nigerian police. Who said living in the court of the superrich doesn't have benefits? Not me.
I again pulled out my badge. "Police. Here to see Dr. Puene."
That amused me, but I said, "Thank you, sergeant." It is always good to be polite to people bigger than you are.
We followed him inside to the foyer, which looked even richer than outside. The furniture was all imported, the curtains were Italian silk, very expensive paintings hung on the walls — or at least, they looked expensive. They certainly were big and had plenty of colors.
The inside walls were done in a cream color. The furniture matched, in leather. There was a crafted leafless tree with several lighted bulbs, all imported, illuminating the foyer. The air-conditioning was wonderful.
If the foyer was exquisite, the living room was even more so. I walked through a large sculpted archway to enter the room. It was huge. Here, the furniture was all white leather with yellow lace covers. There was a wrought-iron center table, a cream marbled floor, a chocolate brown, wooden-paned ceiling fan with gold trimmings. The red wool curtains were Italian. More expensive paintings.
Strangest, there was a fireplace. That was a good laugh. A fireplace in the tropics? Were these folks expecting it to snow in Port Harcourt? Some people can't give up their borrowed cultures.
That led me to wondering about Mrs. Puene, who was originally from California. Rumor had it that she had returned to America after just three weeks of slugging it out here in the tropical heat. She had come down with sunstroke and had rushed back to a cooler climate. She had married the young Nigerian doctor, who was studying at a university in the States, and, as their wedding gift, her father had solely financed Puene's private practice in Los Angeles. After a long time there, they left their sixteen-year-old son and fourteen-year-old daughter back in the States and moved to Nigeria this past April. Bad time to be in Africa for Mrs. Puene, a first-timer. The heat peaks at that time of the year. No one blamed the white woman. She never thought that marrying an African would mean having to actually live in Africa.
We came to a large room. The sergeant entered in front of us, announced us, and then we stood in the presence of the man himself.
Dr. Puene had a high forehead and a receding chin, a bad combination. He was about six feet tall and oozed power. He had keen brown eyes and thick black hair. Clean shaven and robust, he struck me as a natural-born leader, at least in his well-tailored American suit. He would have made the late Afro juju maestro from Nigeria cry. The way he carried himself spoke of a man who had surmounted all sorts of challenges, a man in charge. A medical doctor, successful by all standards. And an America-trained gynecologist.
He had started his campaign shortly after returning to Nigeria. He said the least he could do was listen to his people, opening a new era for the Ogoni in the politics of Rivers State. The Ogonis' history was an ongoing struggle against the degradation of their lands as a result of oil drilling, the suffering of their people, governmental neglect, lack of social services, and the political marginalization they endured in Nigeria. But he struck me as the type who was probably not as interested in opening up opportunities for his people as he was driven to get power. To me, he seemed the type of man who was prepared to succeed at any cost, including bombing his opponent. He also was no fool, and not a man given to errors. If he had planned the bombing, he would have ensured it would not be traced back to him.
"Good morning, Doctor," I said, walking up to him. "Sorry to bother you. I'm Homicide Detective Peterside and this is Detective Olufemi Adegbola. State police."
He smiled and shook our hands as if he meant it. "Very good, then. What can I do for you, officers? I don't have too much time, you saw the people waiting outside."
Excerpted from Treachery in the yard by Adimchinma Ibe, Victor Schwartzman. Copyright © 2010 Adimchinma Ibe. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First Line: The lead officer briefed us as we walked through the chaotic scene.Detective Tamunoemi ("Tammy") Peterside is thrown right into the middle of a heated political race when one candidate's home is destroyed by a bomb. The person at the top of the suspect list is that candidate's opponent. As Peterside tries to get to the bottom of this mess, anyone who might possibly be a witness to the bombing is murdered, and Peterside's superiors set up a constant barrage of advice for him to stop investigating without delay. But Peterside only follows advice (and the rules) when it suits him, and right now it suits him to find out why these people are being murdered.This is a short book that is extremely fast-paced. It paints a picture of a Nigeria that's crippled by corruption. A country where the haves have it all, and the have-nots can't even expect running water or electricity. A country where the police do not have access to computers.Although I liked the pace of the book and its general plot, I did have a couple of problems with it. If you are the type of reader who is only comfortable when you like the main character, you might not like this book. Tammy Peterside is the type of policeman who seems to revel in being his own man. He follows the rules when it suits him, and he thinks nothing of denying suspects their rights when it's convenient for him. Since corruption is such a problem in his country, perhaps this is the only real way he can make headway when the deck is so stacked against him. However, he's also rather cavalier with his lady friends. He knows he's not treating his current girlfriend right, but it doesn't seem to bother him much. Personally I think the only reason why he's seeing this woman is because she has such a great apartment-- he can stop by occasionally for air conditioning and ice.The bodies pile up rather quickly in Treachery in the Yard, but I would expect that these villains would waste no time in covering their tracks. What I didn't like was that, once I knew the nickname of one of the municipal buildings, it was easy for me to piece things together.Despite the problems in this debut novel, it does show a lot of promise, and I will be interested to see what problem Detective Peterside has on his hands in the next book in this series.
TREACHERY IN THE YARD by Adimchinma Ibe is a Nigerian noir police procedural. The story, a short novel (160 pages), broke my reading slump. In the normal course, I don't like this type of book. People are mostly bad, doing bad things. Politics and corruption are probably similar throughout the world. There's a high body count and quite a lot of violence, but it's mostly off-scene. However, in TREACHERY IN THE YARD, I was intrigued. As sometimes happens to me in stories, the protag makes decisions which might be slipshod mistakes or enigmatic pieces of clairvoyance or the author's stylistic writing. It's difficult keeping all the possibilities in mind. Out of this maelstrom comes interesting snippets about modern Nigeria, a fascinating look at how people live and work. Tammy, a homicide detective, has attitudes which feel unusual and foreign. He has curious relationships with his Chief of Police, his partner Femi, and his girlfriend Freda. Though he interests me, Tammy is not a man I like much. TREACHERY IN THE YARD is an interesting diversion.
In Government Reservation Area II, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the bomb devastates the home and garage of affluent Pius Okpara, who is running against Dr. Vincent Puene for the National Conservative's Party's nomination for governor of Rivers State. Outside of the property damage, no one is hurt. Neighbor Mrs. Naomi Karibi, wife of a judge and mom of three, may have seen the culprits as she describes to the police on the scene. Homicide Detective Tamunoemi Peterside leads the official investigation that soon turns from a bombing to murder when Mrs. Karibi is killed. As his superiors intrude on Peterside's inquiry, other potential witnesses are also murdered. Although not as deep as the Botswana mysteries (see Alexander McCall Smith's The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Michael Stanley's Detective Kubu), the first Peterside Nigerian police procedural is an interesting tale. Action-packed as the murder count rises alarmingly fast, Adimchinma Ibe makes a case that corruption intrudes on good police work. Although more insight into Nigeria is needed and less of a Perry Mason climax, fans of African police procedurals will enjoy the first Detective Peterside investigation. Harriet Klausner