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An Evil Eye (Yashim the Ottoman Detective) Hardcover – 7 Jul 2011
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"When you read a historical mystery by Jason Goodwin, you take a magic-carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth." --Marilyn Stasio, "The New York Times Book Review""Goodwin is an author of many strengths...[and his books] just keep getting better....The complicated plot that unfolds is deftly controlled throughout....Goodwin's prose is sharp and surprising." --"The Washington Post""Exotic...An elegant meditation on the Ottoman psyche. Goodwin is as concerned with capturing the sights, sounds, and recipes as he is with the murders." --"Financial Times (London)""Goodwin continues to create historical mysteries with an A-quality plot, excellent historical detail, and a strong sense of place....He is still at the top of his game." --"Booklist""A great addition to a superb series." --"The Globe and Mail (London)""In Yashim's investigations the stakes are high indeed....The bare outlines are enlivened by Goodwin's skillful use of color and detail, especially Yashim's recipes, which set the reader drooling. As a historian, Goodwin is scrupulous." --"The Independent (London)"
An Evil Eye by Jason Goodwin is the thrilling new Yashim the Detective mystery.See all Product description
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The series begins with the Janissary Tree The Janissary Tree ('Yashim the Eunuch' Mystery)and it is the best place to start. Here you will be introduced to the characters who feature in each succeeding story and learn the language of the imperial harem and Ottoman Istanbul. Next comes 'The Snake Stone' and the third story is 'The Bellini Card'. The Bellini Card ('Yashim the Eunuch' Mystery) For me it was the least successful of the series, much of the action of the Bellini Card takes place in Venice and I missed the claustrophobic atmosphere created so well in the intrigues of the imperial coterie in Istanbul.
In 'An Evil Eye' we are back on familiar territory in Istanbul and it does not disappoint. The action begins with a body found in the well inside an Orthodox monastery. The local muslim men get the idea that the Greek monks have killed a muslim and are holding his body. A confrontation ensues - enter Yashim to diffuse this delicate situation. He discovers the dead man is not a muslim - but who is he? How did he get into the well? Who put him there and why? Yasim's investigation unravels a web of treachery, blackmail and feud.
Meanwhile the Sultan has just died and as his teenage son takes possession of the new Beziktas Palace, the late Sultan's harem ladies are all expelled from the palace to make room for young Sultan's collection of ladies. There is uproar and confusion. Many of the 'old' ladies are relocated to the old Topkapi palace which is presided over by the valide' mother of the late Sultan. Meanwhile the late Sultan's sister rules the roost in Beziktas. Two palaces each with scheming and division and death.
As the story builds to a climax all of these story lines are brought together with an act of national betrayal which threatens the peace of Istanbul - Russia and Egypt loom as threats. But no fear! Yashim sorts it all out. An exciting, entertaining story, in a dream location with the added benefit of a few of Yashim's tasty recipes judiciously scattered to flavour the tale. I am glad to see that a 5th book is planned.
PS: I think it would be useful to have a very brief 'Glossary' at the end of the book.
Goodwin makes history come alive as he sets his scene (and murder most foul plots) in Istanbul during the mid-19th century. This series is full of political intrigue, social development, cultural differences, superstitions, and just an excellent “whodunit”—with the Ottoman Empire as a principle character!
Alas, in addition to a murdered body or two (of course, interrelated), the admiral of the Ottoman fleet has set about to defect and sails his fleet into Alexandria, Egypt. What’s the sultan to do? For one, he calls in Yashmin and what, at first seems a simple case of murder (albeit political) we find that the tentacles reach far and wee. The admiral, it so happens, has a long history with Yashim and there are no loyal (or kind) feelings between the two—their differences go back years. He is a cruel, scheming, nefarious “bad guy,” who, it appears, will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, political or personal. He is also a man that Yashmin knows well and knows he’s someone to fear.
And while the plot is developing (and more bodies are found), we meet more assorted characters, including the queen mother, his Polish ambassador friend, and a number of local citizens in this incredible melting pot of universal citizenry, reflecting the centuries of multi-culturalism that the city has witnessed. We also learn more of the secrets and everyday life of the sultan’s harem,and we are introduced to a great deal of Turkish cuisine. Yashmin, in addition to being the sultan’s chief investigator, is also an accomplished chef.
Before long, of course, Yashmin unravels the deep secret the admiral has and is able to solve yet another set of problems for the sultan. Goodwin’s series is one of the more fascinating stories this reader has read. He is able to balance a strong storyline with a venerable portrayal of the time and place of his settings.
A body is found down a well at a monastery. But, as with all Yashim's stories there are many threads to wind up and some of an entirely different hue. The goings on at the palace also provides a sinister backdrop. With defections, spies, and crimes from years back rearing their heads this story will keep involved. Very enjoyable.
The sprawling plot of this novel - drawing together the body of a murdered man dragged from a monastery well, the changes of the harem arising from a new sultan, and a threat of betrayal to the Ottoman state - can be confusing and rendered moreso by the array of characters over multiple locations. But the journey through the labyrintine plot brings with it huge pleasures, including asides on the history of the Ottoman empire, the machinations of the harem, evocative descriptions of the city of Istanbul, and good cooking: Yashim takes his cooking seriously and frequently unpicks plot difficulties while chopping his vegetables.
So an enjoyable, evocative read, that illuminates, most entertainingly, an unfamiliar time and place.