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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)
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on 16 May 2017
Fun mystery, but author clearly couldn't be bothered doing much research and it's filled with laughable errors.
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on 10 April 2017
It took a while to get into, but once in, I loved it. The book was well written, cleverly conceived and well researched - it kept me guessing. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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on 10 September 2017
intriguing detail and good plot
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on 3 April 2017
Great fun and also an extremely interesting potted history of The Ottoman Empire.
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on 21 July 2017
excellent
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on 17 September 2017
Draws you in, carries you along. Written by someone who knows a thing or to about the Ottoman period. My favourite historical fiction series, recommend them all.
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on 1 October 2017
Very enjoyable. Historically interesting. A good story we'll-told.
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VINE VOICEon 19 July 2008
Yashim the Eunuch is called in the help investigate the murder of a young concubine in the Sultan's harem and also the assumed abduction of four young cadets from the New Guard (the Ottoman Armed Forces.) The book starts well enough but it was disconcerting that the author appeared to assume that the reader would come to the novel with prior knowledge. I thought this book would be an interesting murder-mystery and that I would learn something about a period of history I know nothing about. Instead, I became lost in the many references to historical events; the differing roles of the characters; and how the general hierarchy had significance.

The characterisation is also quite poor. The reason why Yashim is approached to investigate is never explained satisfactorily and then one-dimensional characters are introduced and never referred to again. The plot isn't too bad, but between the more interesting chapters there are a number of sections that drag.

I am willing to admit that I might not have enjoyed this book as much as I could have because of my lack of knowledge; but this would have easily been remedied by the inclusion of an author's note or short glossary. After all the hype and the awards, this was a real disappointment.
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on 6 July 2014
Entertaining yarn about Yashim, a rather sexy eunuch in the Ottoman Empire of the early 19th century. He is a kind of spy and undercover operator, and investigates some rather nasty murders. Excellent action sequences, one set in a stinking tannery, and lots of interesting history. The most startling of which was the relationship between cousins Aimée du Buc de Rivéry and Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie. Both were upper class Creole girls sent from Martinique to France to make 'good' marriages. Marie Josephe made it, and married Alexandre de Beauharnais, who was beheaded in the Revolution, and then met and married Napoleon 1. Through the children of her first marriage, many of the royal lines of Europe are descended from her. Aimee did not. She was captured by pirates and enslaved. But her wit, intelligence and guts combined to send her to the very top of what was possible for a woman and she was the power behind the throne as the Valide Sultan (queen mother) in Istanbul. The Empress and the Sultana corresponded for years apparently. Sadly this is a myth, but a very appealing one.
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