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Yashim is back on familiar territory
on 4 January 2012
This is the 4th in Jason Goodwin's series of stories featuring Yashim the detective eunuch. Set in exotic Istanbul in the 19th century during the slow decline of the Ottoman empire this series is filled with intrigue and atmosphere and the plots aren't bad either.
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.