The Janissary Tree - Yashim, Bk 1 Author:Jason Goodwin It is 1836. Europe is modernizing and the Ottoman Empire must follow suit. But just before the sultan announces sweeping changes, a wave of murders threatens the fragile balance of power in his court. Who is behind them? Only one intelligence agent can be trusted to find out: Yashim, a man both brilliant and near-invisible in this world, an inve... more »stigator who can walk with ease in the great halls of the empire, in its streets, and even within its harems -- because, of course, Yashim is a eunuch. His investigation points to the Janissaries, who, for four hundred years were the empire's elite soldiers. Crushed by the sultan, could they now be staging a brutal comeback? And can they be stopped without throwing Istanbul into political chaos?« less
First in a new historical mystery series featuring Yashim, a eunuch living in Istanbul in the 1830's. The Janissaries were an elite band of soldiers who let power go to their heads and eventually became more like the mafia than anything else--they provided public safety to those who could pay for it--but they also provided the public menace. The Janissaries were attacked and disbanded by the Sultan in 1826, but a series of murders of the current city guard and mysterious poems left on the Janissary Tree (the tree where they used to hang their criminals when they were in power) leads Yashim the investigator to believe that they may be attempting to make a comeback. While working on that case for the seraskier, the head of the current city guards/soldiers, the sultan's mother has also asked him to look into the murder of a young girl in the harem; she was a virgin, ready to bed the Sultan and was killed in her bed before the deed could take place. Also missing are the sultan's mother's jewels, a gift from Napoleon Bonaparte, and she wants them back! Yashim scurries hither and yon trying to investigate all the crimes on his plate and like many good sleuths, ends up tired, sore and short on sleep.
Excellent book that lands you in the heart of the times and the culture. And oh my...the man can cook, too! Make sure you don't read on an empty stomach, as the descriptions of Yashim's meal preparations are enough to make your mouth water! Definitely will be following this series...this first one is as rich as a good cup of Turkish coffee!
Beth D. (DCMom) reviewed The Janissary Tree (Yashim, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 2
This book is for readers who enjoy a rich historical backdrop in their novels. At the waning sunset of the Ottoman empire, a brilliant investigator is tasked with finding out who is killing members of the Sultan's military guard but discovers a much bigger conspiracy at work. The novel has a fascinating series of depictions of life in 19th century Istanbul which make it a very engaging and worthwhile read. Scheming eunuchs, insiders in the Sultan's harem, the mysterious military force called the Janissaries, and members of the dark side of Istanbul nightlife populate the book and drive the story.
Horrible. I don't know how it won the Edgar Alan Poe award for mystery. Difficult to read and follow. The only reason I finished it was because it was for book club and I suggested it just from the awards it received.
Yashim, an investigator who can travel anywhere within the Ottoman Empire to solve murders, is the unlikely hero of this novel. Four officers of the new military disappear, bright intelligent young men all. When they turn up murdered in horrible ways Yashim finds the trail appears to lead to the Janissaries, a ruthless group of mercenaries who served as the empire's guards for four hundred years. Because he is a eunuch, he can even move within the sultan's harem if needed.
Yashim must discover why the bodies are turning up in specific places. After searching maps and archives for the first fire towers Yashim determines that he is on the wrong track. He begins searching for traditional rooms used by the Janissaries for religious activities. In the process he has a stimulating sexual encounter with Eugenia, a beautiful Russian woman. And, he barely survives an attempt on his life in the public baths when he falls asleep and locked in a steam room where he is nearly cooked to death.
The story is complex, winding, and ever changing. Each time Yashim believes he is on the right track, another clue is uncovered to enlarge the puzzle. As the story unfolds, the reader becomes fascinated with what is happening. And, what appears to be happening is only part of the story. Excellent read! I plan to read The Bellini Card, too.
I have come to watch out for the description "historical novel" as a code-word for "romance novel." I want a book with an interesting plot that is part and parcel of the place and time, not just plopped down in it. This is definitely one. The author's incorporates a mystery plot which could only happen in the time and place he describes. And his detailed knowledge of the geography, customs, and technology of 19th-century Istanbul is artfully woven around the characters.
I very much enjoyed this book. The setting is 1800's Istanbul and Mr. Goodwin does a wonderful job of setting the scene and creating the atmosphere. The chapters are very short which made this book a quick (but not trivial) read. I am looking forward to the next installment.