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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Eunuch with balls !
This is the second in the series of novels featuring the eunuch Yashmin - the first being the equally good introduction "The Jannissary Tree". Set in the mid 1800's in Turkey at the height of the Ottaman Empire this is a detective novel with a slight quirky nature. Anyone who likes Boris Akunin will, I am sure, take just as kindly to this hero as they have done to Erast...
Published on 1 Aug 2007 by R. W. Morrissey

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars - A bit confusing but with excellent suspense and a great twist
First Sentence: The voice was low and rough and it came from behind as dusk fell.

I love Goodwin's strong sense of place. His descriptions draw mental pictures and engage you senses. The book is a fascinating look at Istanbul of this period and a culture so different from our own, but you also see our culture viewed through their eyes. We are also seeing it...
Published 19 months ago by L. J. Roberts


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Eunuch with balls !, 1 Aug 2007
This is the second in the series of novels featuring the eunuch Yashmin - the first being the equally good introduction "The Jannissary Tree". Set in the mid 1800's in Turkey at the height of the Ottaman Empire this is a detective novel with a slight quirky nature. Anyone who likes Boris Akunin will, I am sure, take just as kindly to this hero as they have done to Erast Fandorin or Sister Pelugia. Jason Goodwin carefully weaves colourful portraits of Istanbul, life within a Sultans palace, political intrigue and historical drama into the storyline (as well as some good cooking tips!) and, as with all good detective novels, the ending has a surprise or two in store. A very enjoyable book and one I thoroughly recommend.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime Writing with an Exotic Flourish, 19 Oct 2008
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Snake Stone (A 'Yashim the Eunuch' Mystery) (Paperback)
'The Snake Stone' is the second novel featuring Yashim the Eunuch, one of recent crime fiction's more interesting creations. Set in Istanbul against a backdrop of a crumbling Ottoman empire, Goodwin's novels are both tightly plotted and full of sumptuous description.

Yashim finds himself, an anachronism in a rapidly modernising city. With the Sultan on his deathbed, he is unsure of his continuing role and as a eunuch, is uncomfortable with his asexual persona. This makes Yashim both engaging and vulnerable, without the author having to resort to alcohol abuse and divorce; a welcome respite from two of crime fiction's most overused clichés.

Goodwin's writing is descriptive yet easy to read, his portrayal of Istanbul is rich and varied; you can almost smell the city. You can certainly taste Yashim's wonderful culinary concoctions; food and taste are at the heart of any culture, which is why many a foreign detective is a whizz in the kitchen; Yashim's tasty meals add authenticity to the author's excellent depiction of the city.

Some other reviews complain about historical inaccuracies and I confess to not having a enough knowledge to support or refute these claims. I would however, suggest that it probably doesn't matter, this is a work of fiction after all. Goodwin's novels ooze authenticity and his characters are well rounded and entertaining, in particular the brandy-loving Polish ambassador.

The plot of 'The Snake Stone', is exciting and believable, although I did feel that everything fell into place a little too conveniently. There is also a nice little sting in the final paragraphs, which I certainly didn't see coming. I have thoroughly enjoyed the two Yashim novels that I have read so far; they were both high quality crime-writing with an exotic garnish; I look forward to the next instalment.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Turkish impotentate returns!, 15 Dec 2007
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
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Jason Goodwin's second book "The Snake Stone" sees the return of the Turkish, crime-solving eunuch Yashim Togalu. I'm pleased to report that Goodwin's second book was as fun to read as his first, The Janissary Tree: A Novel".

As befits a mystery set in Istanbul the plot of "The Snake Stone" is moderately Byzantine but not so complex that the reader gets lost. Yashim is approached by a French archeologist (of the plundering sort) who tells Yashim a story about some priceless antiquities. Shortly thereafter the man is found dead and since Yashim is the last man to see him alive he finds himself faced with the prospect of being a suspect in the murder. Yashim has no choice but to try to unravel the mystery.

Two aspects of the book deserve special praise. As noted, the plot revolves around the possible discovery of priceless antiquities and this is a perfect device for a book set in a city such as Istanbul one of the world's historic cross-roads. The plot gives Goodwin a great opportunity to `explore' Istanbul's rich and diverse history both archeologically and socially. Goodwin studied Byzantine history at Cambridge and has written books on the history of the Ottoman Empire (Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire and his writing evidences that knowledge. Goodwin puts his knowledge to good use as he paints a very readable picture of Istanbul that captures (for me at least) the sights, sounds, and smells of Istanbul's streets and alleys while also conveying a sense of the political and social backdrop that drove the characters in the book. Anytime a writer gives you the sense that you can almost get a visceral feel for the sights and sounds of a city that writer has done a good job.

Second, Goodwin has done an excellent job in developing the character of Yashim. Yashim is now, in the second book, a fully formed and very endearing character. The minor recurring characters are equally engaging. Last, Yashim isn't the first detective to be a gourmet cook but I have to say the descriptions of Yashim's recipes were very enticing.

In my review of "The Janissary Tree" I mentioned that Goodwin's Yashim reminded me of Boris Akunin's Erast Fandorin novels (late 19th-century Russia such as The Winter Queen: A Novel (Erast Fandorin Mysteries)) and Arturo Perez-Reverte's Captain Alatriste stories such as Captain Alatriste (17th-century Spain). They all take the standard detective or mystery story and transport the reader to a different time and place. "The Snake Stone" confirms my original impression that Goodwin's books belong in that good company. "The Snake Stone" was an excellent story and anyone who likes a good detective story with a bit of an exotic twist should enjoy it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journey to Ottoman Istanbul..., 20 Jan 2008
Our favourite eunuch makes his next outing in declining Istanbul. This time it's a secret Hellanistic cult that needs thwarting. It's more of the same as the last book, intriguing mystery, another beautiful woman that causes emotional turmoil, various culinary experiences and another slightly fudged ending and all is well at the end. Of course the storyline is hardly paramount in the book, one reads this for the journey through Ottoman Istanbul, the experience the smells and sights and to learn its history. The atmosphere and background is beautifully described, one can really get the sense of the authors historical expertise coming in to play. The plot fades from memory almost instantly on completion, but the sense of old Istanbul lingers in the memory long after the books completion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Historical Mystery with Editorial Flaws, 2 Aug 2007
By 
Miran Ali "I don't like anonymous reviewers" (Dhaka, Bangladesh) - See all my reviews
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I think the other two reviewers have covered the book pretty well. Exotic and well written historical mystery, set in mid-nineteenth century Istanbul. Unfortunately, unlike quite a few historical novels, this one doesn't have a map of the city. So if you're unfamiliar with Istanbul, you'll be left floundering. The same applies for the lack of end notes in regards to the cuisine, clothing and factual events. There is a presumption of prior knowledge which I found quite irritating. Otherwise excellent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the city is the biggest star in this book, 22 April 2014
For anyone who loves Istanbul, this book is a must. It is a cracking mystery story, with fascinating characters, especially Yashim the eunuch, who is an irresistible and unforgettable individual - but for me it is above all a portrait of a city, and although it is set in the nineteenth century, there is so much there that is still familiar to visitors to Istanbul today. A brilliant evocation of the place, its history and its varied communities, an atmosphere so beautifully built up through so many details, without holding up the plot which rattles along. If you know Istanbul, read this book. if you are planning to visit Istanbul, read this book. And if you are merely interested in Istanbul, read this book and you will have a real feel for this magical and mysterious place.
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3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars - A bit confusing but with excellent suspense and a great twist, 26 Nov 2012
By 
L. J. Roberts (Oakland, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
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First Sentence: The voice was low and rough and it came from behind as dusk fell.

I love Goodwin's strong sense of place. His descriptions draw mental pictures and engage you senses. The book is a fascinating look at Istanbul of this period and a culture so different from our own, but you also see our culture viewed through their eyes. We are also seeing it at a time of significant transition from being and primarily Muslim city, to one more influenced by Western Culture. Yet his descriptions are not only of this past, but a past beyond the story.

The literary references were wonderful; I even learned things about Byron I hadn't known. The sub-story of the Sultan, who is dying, and the Sultan's mother, was fascinating. Yashim is a wonderful character; intelligent and multifaceted. He's also a man who doesn't really fit anywhere, yet from that, allows him to go places others cannot. I'm always delighted by Stanislaw Palewski, the ambassador without a country and by the flashes of quite delightful, yet subtle humor, Goodwin injects into his dialogue.

I did find the story a bit confusing, at times, yet there was some excellent suspense and a great twist at the end.

THE SNAKE STONE (Hist/Mystery-Yashim-Instanbul-1830s) - G+
Goodwin, Jason
Sarah Chrichton Books, 2007
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2.0 out of 5 stars A slight improvement on The Janissary Tree, 5 Oct 2011
This review is from: The Snake Stone (A 'Yashim the Eunuch' Mystery) (Paperback)
I read the first book in the series, The Janissary Tree last year, and was very disappointed with it. The murder/mystery aspect of the book seemed to be rather superficial. I would not have read The Snake Stone had I not already purchased it. I found Snake Stone to be a slight improvement over the first book, but I still felt that it was a very light weight crime book, where the murder aspect was again almost secondary to the story. Once again the detective seems to wander around, having lots of conversations with lots of people, most of which does not enhance the story. Perhaps the author wanted to set a book in Turkey and just added a murder to the book? I didn't find the Turkish elements of the book to be particularly interesting, and found the frequent references to food to be irrelevant, they seemed to be just put in there to pad out the book, but didn't in any way contribute to the plot or the quality of the book. As I have now read the 2 books that I purchased by Jason Goodwin I am quite relieved that I don't have any more to read and certainly wouldn't buy any more by this author. I think that the references to the similarities to the Boris Akunin novels are quite correct, and I do feel that if you like the Erast Fandorin books you will probably enjoy Jason Goodwin, and vice versa. The chapters are exceptionally short, averaging 3 pages throughout the book which does make it an easy read, as it is always very easy to read another chapter and thus make progress through the book. If you liked The Janissary Tree then I am sure that you will enjoy this book as it continues in very much the same style. But if you did not like The Janissary Tree then you will probably not enjoy this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully moody, mesmerizing, and full of interesting detail about Ottoman Istanbul, 15 April 2011
As a Turk who has lived in Istanbul for many years, I am perhaps one of the harder readers to please for a foreign author writing about Ottoman Istanbul, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Snake Stone. This is a beautifully written novel full of incredible historical detail, which paints a city of a hundred nationalities existing side by side in a mesmerizing kaleidoscope. My only criticism would be that it tries to be Da Vinci Code towards the end and this subtracts from the charm of The Snake Stone.

The Snake Stone is similar to its predecessor, The Janissary Tree, in many ways but has a better story and is more readable. However, the annoying misspellings and creative use of the Turkish language is still there: Hippodrome is "Atmeydan" on pg 23 but then becomes "Atmeidan" on pg 25, although the correct spelling would be "At meydani". "Aya Sofya" (Turkish spelling) is used a few times but then turns into "Aya Sofia" which must be the editor's personal understanding of the correct English spelling of "Hagia Sophia". One of Istanbul's districts is called "Beyazit", not "Bayezit". "Water" is "su" in Turkish and not "sou", so "water inspector" is "su naziri" and not "sou naziry", while "the inspector" would be "the nazir" and not "the naziry" as that last letter (which should have been 'i') means "of" as in "inspector of water". Even the French phrases could use editing: "Ils me connaissent", not "Ils me connaient" like on pg 46.

It seems to me that Jason Goodwin needs a new editor or at least a friendly reader to take a look at the final copy of his books before publishing. I humbly offer my services :-)
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3.0 out of 5 stars Nice and exotic, 14 Jun 2010
By 
Kaila Kaarle - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Snake Stone (A 'Yashim the Eunuch' Mystery) (Paperback)
I am not a great fan of detective stories but combined with an exotic environment like Ottoman Istambul made the story quite enjoyable. I have read also other stories/books from that environment and find it interesting to learn of other types of worlds than our northern european one.
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The Snake Stone (A 'Yashim the Eunuch' Mystery)
The Snake Stone (A 'Yashim the Eunuch' Mystery) by Jason Goodwin (Paperback - 1 May 2008)
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