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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Janissary Tree

Goodwin, Jason. The Janissary Tree. Goodwin, who has written a history of the Ottoman Empire, Lords of the Horizons , has turned his hand to a series of mysteries set in Istanbul in the 1830's.

Istanbul/Constantinople is such an exotic setting and the Janissaries have such an intriguing background, that even if I hadn't noticed earlier this year that this novel was nominated for the Macavity Award, I would have been tempted.

Permit us to introduce Yashim,
a most extraordinary man.
Intelligence agent par excellence. Confidant of sultans.
rouble shooter. Linguist. Chef. Eunuch.

I liked the above little introduction from the jacket so well, I had to use it. I just noticed it and think it so fitting.

Four promising young cadets from the New Guard have been kidnapped and are being murdered in grisly and symbolic ways. A member of the Sultan's harem is murdered. And who has been called in to solve these seemingly unrelated murders, but Yashim...

For the first 16 pages, I wasn't much impressed, and I put the book down and went on to read Elizabeth's German Garden. When I came back to The Janissary Tree, however, I found myself becoming involved with Yashim. From then on, putting the book down was next to impossible.

The historical parts captured my attention and interest, and Yashim's character began to fascinate me. In the end, Goodwin had me engrossed with the history of the period and with the characters. His next Yashim mystery is due out this fall, and I will be sure to catch up with Yashim, "a most extraordinary man"; Stanislaw Palewski, the Polish ambassador; the sultan's mother and lender of French novels, Aimee'; Preen; and (hopefully) Murad Eslek. Since the Russian ambassador's wife departed with her husband (who was forced to return to Russia), I suppose she is gone for good, but I liked her hutzpah.


Fiction. Historical mystery. 2006. Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux. 299 pages.


  1. This one sounds really interesting-it's gone on my tbr list!

  2. Ooh - I've been really wanting to read this book, but haven't managed to get hold of it yet. Good to know you enjoyed it!

    This is just to let you know as well that I've tagged you for the "Blogging Tips" meme. Please don't feel obliged, but I think its quite useful really...

  3. eva - It really appealed to me after I got into it!

    heidijane - Found The Janissary Tree on the "New Book Shelf" at the library and snatched it up!

    I've been nominated for this meme by Gentle Reader, too, and have been reading the tips (which are all excellent), but have been so busy trying to catch up on my email and book reviews, I haven't gotten around to it. Thanks for thinking of me, and I'll TRY to think of a new tip...

  4. I have not heard of this one--it sounds good. I'll have to look for it at my library. The new books shelves have been woefully empty of anything terribly new (and interesting looking) lately!

  5. Another intriquing one that I am going to have to point out to my wife, a big mystery fan. Love the cover. Thanks!

  6. danielle - It isn't that new, but our new book shelves cover both new books and more.

    Carl - I like the cover, too, and after the first 15-20 pages, really enjoyed this one.

  7. I've had this one on my TBR shelf for ages, but just never seem to be in the mood for it.

  8. lesley - It is very interesting historically, and I liked the characters--after finally getting into it. Funny, though, how sometimes books we have seem less interesting after a while. I have several on my shelf that are always left behind when I pull out something to read.

  9. A mystery set in Istanbul in the 1830's - I really like the sound of that. Mystery is a genre I'm only just starting to discover, and the idea of historical mysteries really appeals to me. This one sounds fascinating. I'm adding it to my wishlist.

  10. Nymeth - Of course, I'm a mystery fan anyway, but getting a little history lesson is a bonus!