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63 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And let not the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree
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...
Published on 13 Jun 2006 by Leonard Fleisig

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overall enjoyable but plot lets it down a touch
I enjoyed the book overall and would recommend it as a light-hearted historical romp. Yashim is a good character and Goodwin is very good at bringing to life a sketch of 19th century Istanbul. In many ways there is a touch of the Flashman about the novel and to me that can only be a good thing.

If I were to knock it at all, I must say I felt the book ended a...
Published on 25 Aug 2011 by Peter Sandham


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63 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And let not the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree, 13 Jun 2006
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant intrigue - fantastic backdrop, 27 Jun 2006
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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.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turkish Delight, 29 Aug 2007
By 
A.K.Farrar "AKF" (Timisoara, Romania) - See all my reviews
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.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best novel I have read in years, 29 July 2006
By 
P. Colfox (England) - See all my reviews
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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!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally good read, 18 Jun 2006
By 
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.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly beguiling, 15 Jun 2006
By 
Daisy Goodwin (London) - See all my reviews
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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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining & engaging, 8 Dec 2006
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This was a real pleasure to read: Istanbul in the 1830s makes for a very unusual setting (at least for me that is), and Yashim the eunuch for an unusual detective.

The whole setting is richly described and you can feel that Goodwin is very much 'at home' both geographically and historically with his subject. Coupled with nicely rounded characters, and a fluent style this makes for a very nice read. You'd almost wish you'd have a water-pipe close to hand ;-)
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I want Footnotes!, 3 July 2007
By 
Miran Ali "I don't like anonymous reviewers" (Dhaka, Bangladesh) - See all my reviews
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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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overall enjoyable but plot lets it down a touch, 25 Aug 2011
I enjoyed the book overall and would recommend it as a light-hearted historical romp. Yashim is a good character and Goodwin is very good at bringing to life a sketch of 19th century Istanbul. In many ways there is a touch of the Flashman about the novel and to me that can only be a good thing.

If I were to knock it at all, I must say I felt the book ended a little flat, with the plot becoming somewhat confused at its pinnacle. That hasn't stopped me picking up the next Yashim adventure though.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but references are confusing, 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.
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