Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
57
4.2 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

Isaiah 56:3

Investigator Yashim, the hero of Jason Goodwin's first novel, "The Janissary Tree" may be a Turkish eunuch but it is not at all likely that anyone reading this book will think of him as a "dry tree". In fact, if Yashim's steamy encounter with the beautiful but lonely wife of the Russian ambassador to Turkey halfway through the book is any indication, this is one heck of a unique eunuch.

I would love to have been present when Goodwin pitched the idea of a novel (and the first in a proposed series) about a crime-solving eunuch in Istanbul to his agent or publisher. Fortunately, someone had the good sense to green light this project as Goodwin has crafted a highly-entertaining book.

The Janissary Tree is set in Istanbul in 1836. Ten years earlier the Janissaries, the Sultan's version of the Roman Empire's Praetorian Guards, had been crushed by the "New Guard", the Sultan's standing army. Like the Praetorian Guards the Janissaries had evolved from a protective legion to one that terrorized the populace and the Sultan. Now, ten years later, the mysterious disappearance of four members of the New Guard and the murder of one of the Sultan's harem heralds the possible return of the Janissaries. The return of the Janissaries threatens to destroy the Sultanate and the relative calm of Istanbul. Enter Investigator Yashim. He is given ten days to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Yashim is soon engulfed in murder and intrigue. Bodies begin to appear in bizarre places as Yashim and his friends (including a somewhat decadent Polish Ambassador who has no country to represent and a transsexual dancer) try to get to the bottom of this alleged revolt.

Goodwin is very good at keeping the plot boiling (in more ways than one). Goodwin, who studied Byzantine history at Cambridge and who has written books on the history of the Ottoman Empire, has ample knowledge of the time and the place and has put this knowledge to good use. Although I haven't been to Istanbul in almost thirty years, Goodwin seems to convey a real sense of how the city must have looked, felt, and even smelled more than 180 years or so ago.

The Janissary Tree reminded me of Boris Akunin's Erast Fandorin novels (late 19th-century Russia) and Arturo Perez-Reverte's Captain Alatriste stories (17th-century Spain). They all take the standard detective or mystery story and transport the reader to a different time and place. As with both Akunin and Perez-Reverte's novels, Jason Goodwin's "The Janissary Tree" is an entertaining and diverting read.

L. Fleisig
0Comment| 67 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 27 June 2006
I loved Jason Goodwin's The Janissary Tree because it is a genuine, classical detective story, but set in an extraordinarily well-researched and depicted 1830s Istanbul. The backdrop - both physical and historical - is crucial to the intrigue, playing a full part in the action. The characters - especially Yashim the eunuch and the Polish ambassador - are sympathetic. The final pages contain two beautifully revealed twists.
0Comment| 33 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 July 2006
A gripping and hilarious romp through 19th Century Istanbul. Delicately crafted and exciting yarn, steeped in historical fact, beautiful descriptions of cooking that make you hungry; tasteful and amusing situations pile one on top of the other as delicately the plot builds up to a crashing crescendo. An excellent novel in the best tradition of English literature; full of interesting facts and delightful situations. I have bought five copies to give to my children's teachers!
0Comment| 38 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 June 2006
I bought this book after reading its brilliant review by Natasha Cooper in the Times. How right she was. Jason Goodwin's writing is nothing short of superb - a fabulous plot in the midst of descriptions of 1830s Istanbul which evoke this city to such a degree that you have to pinch yourself to rememeber that you're not actually there. The book's hero Yashim, is the best of investigators, clever and kind, but troubled, and his friend the Polish ambassador is a treasure. I read the book in one take. I look forward to reading it again and hope, too, to see a sequel out soon. Read this book, it's writing at its best.
0Comment| 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon 3 July 2007
It's increasingly rare to accidentaly (through the amazon reccomendations system) to suddenly discover a new author and fall in love with a new series. And this is one such book. As another reviewer has said, there are great similarities with Boris Akunin.

Naturally he does go on a bit about eunuch's and you'll find yourself clenching your knees once in a while.

As with so many period novels my one complaint are the lack of footnotes or even any historical or character notes; as are found in Flashman. It's quite frustrating to have to look up on wiki to see whether the character or event is factual or fictional. I hope in the later series' or editions have some end-notes or background information.
11 comment| 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 August 2007
Let me start by saying this is a jolly good read - and a great book to take on holiday to a Turkish beach, especially if you are off on a trip to Istanbul as part of your visit.

I read it within three days of starting it - I was quickly dragged into the story and the pace builds up to a nice `want to know' ending.

If you are 'into' the Historical detective story, this is almost as good as it gets. Plenty of historically accurate detail - the sort of `everyday detail' needed to spice up the story - food, clothing, buildings.

And the essential characters are there: The not quite accepted by anyone `detective'; the manipulative bad-guy; an exotic beautiful temptress; and a tart-with-a-heart with a difference (one of my favourite characters I have to say).

What this is is firmly `escapist' - but with a slightly educational twist - I did get a sense of what Istanbul must have been like, and a sense of the origins of the modern Turkish dilemma between secularism and tradition. If at times the writing felt too worthy, it only lasted a short time and we were soon back chasing fire-raisers through the seedy streets.

This is not Orhan Pamuk - but it isn't meant to be.
0Comment| 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 24 July 2007
As a Turk who has lived in Istanbul for many years, I found this book intriguing & true to the spirit and mood of of the city as well as us Turks as a nation. Jason Goodwin has researched Istanbul and its history above and beyond what can be expected from an author for his novel.

Still, I would like to say that I found quite a few references confusing:
For starters, Yashim ('jade') is a girl's name. Since he was not born a eunuch, it would be highly unlikely that our hero would have this name. 'Hashim', sure. 'Yashim', quite impossible.

There are also numerous names that are spelled one way on one page, and then in another way for the rest of the book. Yashim cooks 'Acen Yahnisi' on page 16 of my copy, and eats 'Acem Yahnisi' (correct spelling) three pages later. We first learn of 'Aya Sofya' (Turkish spelling) and then 'Hagia Sophia' (standard English spelling) which then becomes 'Hagya Sophia' (misspelt completely) literaly on the same page. 'Kislar Aga' would make better sense if written as 'Kizlar Agasi' so it would mean 'chief in charge of girls'. Through the book, we shift between Turkish words and their Anglicised semi-translations.

Least but not least - What is the 'Karagozi sect'??? Karagoz means 'black eye' and is the name of the famous traditional shadow-play puppet who pares with another puppet called Hacivat. Sure I had missed something, I Googled "Karagozi" in an Ottoman context, and there are only four references to this word: one in a book review of this book, and three blogs that seem to be referencing the puppets I mentioned.

Since I speak Turkish and know a bit about the Ottoman Empire, confusing references such as the above did not reduce my enjoyment of this book. In all, I quite liked "The Janissary Tree" and will soon start "The Snake Stone", its sequel.
11 comment| 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 June 2006
It is a worry when your brother gives you his first novel. What do you say if it isn't up to scratch? My brother would be the first to spot any feigned enthuisiasm. Luckily, and I am being as impartial as a sister can, The Janissary Tree is a treat. It is exactly the sort of book I long to take on holiday - beautifully written, full of effortless knowledge about Istanbul in the 1830's and genuinely gripping. There is one particular facet of Yashim the eunuch hero's amatory adventures that surprised me, suffice to say that Yashim is quite capable of giving a girl a really good time. If if you liked The Incident of the Finger Post or any of the Boris Akunin novels you will love this book.
0Comment| 15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 22 December 2012
This book's structure suits its magnificent, 1836 Istanbul, substance: "an endless circuit, snake swallowing snake. Frustration and excitement and pleasure in equal measure - and without issue." (p. 304). Every chapter closes with an unresolved frustration, which is picked up and dealt with only a few pages later, thanks to short chapters, yielding the excitement of anticipation and the pleasure of fulfilment as you progress through a story which uses a plot full of mirth to present the character of a unique city in the 1830s. And the characterisation is what matters most (to me), since it is history brought alive. Human insight is an added extra: "Bitterness is not a better kind of grief, Zucci. Grief has its place, but bitterness invades a wound like rot. Slowly, bit by bit, it shuts you down. And in the end, even though you are alive, you are really dead." (p.144)
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 August 2006
Contrary to popular belief, eunuchs are in reality capable of satisfying a woman (and themselves), there just aren't any children afterwards. This book was absolutely brilliant, kind of in the vein of Lindsey Davis' Falco series set in ancient Rome, but darker. The historical details were woven in with ease so the reader was hardly aware of them, and the characters were very convincing. Can't wait for Yashim to return to tackle more cases!
0Comment| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse