Spotlight on The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman #Extract @ellisshuman

She’s an Israeli data analyst. He’s a headstrong Bulgarian detective. Together they must track down those responsible for a horrific bombing.

In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack at Burgas Airport in Bulgaria, Israeli and Bulgarian intelligence agencies launch a joint investigation. Detective Boyko Stanchev on the police task force teams up with Ayala Navon, a young Israeli intelligence analyst on her first overseas assignment. The two must establish whether the terrorists were assisted by a Bulgarian crime organization in laying the groundwork for the attack. It should be a routine investigation, but shadows of the past keep interfering. Boyko’s interactions with a crime boss pursuing a vendetta against him threaten to throw him off track. Ayala’s pursuit of the terrorists and their accomplices brings up painful memories of a family tragedy. Boyko and Ayala form a shaky alliance, one that evolves into growing cooperation and affection as they desperately race against time to uncover who was behind the Burgas bombing.

The Burgas Affair is a fictional account of the aftermath of a very real terrorist attack. On July 18, 2012, a deadly explosive rocked a tourist bus at Burgas Airport, killing five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. The terrorists responsible for this murderous attack have never been brought to justice.

July 18, 2012

A tall, lanky man paced back and forth from one side of the Burgas terminal to the other. He glanced frequently at the electronic arrivals board and repeatedly consulted his watch. He wore plaid shorts and an Adidas T-shirt. The visor of a cheap baseball cap lay low on his forehead; a long blond ponytail emerged from its back. The man shifted the weight of his bulky backpack and headed toward the counter of a rental car company.

The plane should have landed by now, he thought. How long would it take for the passengers to disembark, to make their way through customs, claim their luggage, and head for the bus? It will all be over very soon, he told himself, fighting off the urge to simply drop his backpack and run for the nearest taxi.

He fingered the mobile phone in his pocket, awaiting the final instructions. He was instructed to leave the backpack in the baggage compartment of one of the buses, but which one? If he left the bag near where they were parked now, it would be suspicious. Someone would call security. Well, they would if they were smart. But he couldn’t take any chances. This operation had to succeed. And for it to succeed, he needed to follow orders.

An elderly woman approached him, mumbling something unintelligible. He ignored her words and walked away. He must avoid human contact, not form any sort of impression on anyone waiting in the hall. He couldn’t allow himself to make a mark in their memories. To them, he must remain a nonentity, someone who was never there. A smile crossed his lips with the thought of the devastating power he carried on his back.

The top line on the digital arrivals board listed the flight that attracted his attention. Arriving from Tel Aviv, it should have landed already. He checked his Rolex watch again. It was an expensive gold extravagance he had hesitated to purchase. But when wearing the watch, he felt strong, invincible—someone to respect. He wore the gold watch. He was the man.

The plane was ten minutes late, almost fifteen.

Bulgarian gibberish blared out of the loudspeakers. He adjusted his bulky pack and headed toward the terminal’s entrance doors, a vantage point from which he could observe the parking lot. Taxis waited with humming motors, the greedy drivers ready to snatch the first visitors to emerge from the building. At the far side of the lot a number of buses were parked, their motors idling softly. That was where he would go when he received word. That was where he would leave his backpack.

He wondered where the other men were. He tried to spot their small white Fiat, but the vehicle was nowhere in sight. They were probably parked around the corner. There were two of them, light-skinned Arabs who spoke English with a pronounced Arabic accent. They controlled everything, pulled all the strings. But they had paid him well, so he had no reason to question their intentions.

He paced the short length of the terminal complex. He passed the counter of the car rental agency, the small shop selling sundries and local newspapers. He reached the door to the restrooms, but despite a growing need to relieve himself, he spun around and glanced again at the glass entrance doors. A single security officer stood there, smoking. The officer seemed slightly bored, more concerned with his cigarette than with his afternoon duties. The tall stranger continued to circle the hall.

What was delaying the plane?

It would all be over soon, he told himself, once more staring at the electronic list of arriving flights. And then he could leave Bulgaria for good. His wife and child waited patiently for him halfway across the world, without a clue as to what he would do for a rich paycheck. This was simply a job for him, extremely well-paying employment. Unlike his employers though, he was not ideologically involved in any worldwide struggle. He was merely a mule, paid to make a delivery of volatile goods. And he would soon complete his role in the operation.

He was ready for this to end. It was time to go home.


Ellis Shuman was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and immigrated to Israel as a teenager. He completed high school in Jerusalem and served for three years in the Israeli army. Along with his wife, Jodie, he was a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel. After working for several years in the hotel industry, he today writes and edits online marketing content. In the years 2009 – 2010, his job was relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria.

Ellis’s writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Insider, and on a wide range of Internet websites. He is the author of a collection of short stories, The Virtual Kibbutz (2003) and two novels, Valley of Thracians (January 2013) and The Burgas Affair (October 2017).

Ellis lives with his wife, children, and grandchildren on Moshav Neve Ilan, outside Jerusalem. He writes about Bulgaria, Israel, books, travel, and the craft of writing on his blog. Ellis can also be contacted via Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads and The Burgas Affair can be purchased here.


A note from the author

The Burgas Affair was originally published in Bulgarian!

The Burgas Affair was traditionally published in May 2016 by Ciela, the leading publisher in Bulgaria. The book was presented at a book signing event in Sofia in June 2016.

How did this come about? After living in Bulgaria for two years, I had established connections with Bulgarian authors and publishers. In addition, an article I wrote for the Huffington Post entitled “10 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know about Bulgaria” in August 2014 generated huge interest, especially in Bulgaria, gaining over 27,000 Facebook likes. The article was translated into Bulgarian three times!

A year after selling the Bulgarian language rights to The Burgas Affair, I decided to self-publish the novel in its original English version. The book was published in a digital edition on October 30, 2017. A paperback edition will follow.

My feelings about the attack at Burgas Airport in July 2012

My wife and I lived in Sofia for two years (2009–2010) when my job was relocated to Bulgaria. I had never previously visited Bulgaria and quite honestly, it was not on my bucket list of travel destinations. Alongside working full-time, we utilized our weekends to explore the country. We were fascinated by Bulgaria’s history and culture, and fell in love with its nature and picturesque villages.

The terrorist bombing at Burgas Airport in July 2012 took me by surprise because I never expected that such an attack could occur on Bulgarian soil. Having grown up in Israel, I was unfortunately quite familiar with the horror of suicide bombings and explosions on buses. Israelis are very security-conscious, but Bulgaria, I believed, was supposed to be safe territory. And also, I had been to Burgas Airport so I could clearly picture where the bombing took place.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the attack. The more the events raced through my head, the more my creative mind kept coming up with plot lines and characters, a process that led to my writing The Burgas Affair.

In the novel, many of the details of the bombing as well as the names of the suspects are based on information released to the media. However, the joint Bulgarian-Israeli investigation, the leads investigated, the suspected collaboration between Hezbollah and a Bulgarian crime organization, and the characters are all figments of my imagination.

The Burgas bombing was a very real, deadly terrorist attack. Six people were murdered—five Israelis and one Bulgarian—and many others were injured. I hope that my fictitious description of the victims is not considered disrespectful by their families. With that in mind, I dedicate The Burgas Affair to them.

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