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The Bellini Card: A Novel

The Bellini Card: A Novel

4.4 13
by Jason Goodwin

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Investigator Yashim travels to Venice in the latest installment of the Edgar® Award–winning author Jason Goodwin's captivating historical mystery series

Jason Goodwin's first Yashim mystery, The Janissary Tree, brought home the Edgar® Award for Best Novel. His follow-up, The Snake Stone, more than lived up to


Investigator Yashim travels to Venice in the latest installment of the Edgar® Award–winning author Jason Goodwin's captivating historical mystery series

Jason Goodwin's first Yashim mystery, The Janissary Tree, brought home the Edgar® Award for Best Novel. His follow-up, The Snake Stone, more than lived up to expectations and was hailed by Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times Book Review as "a magic carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth." Now, in The Bellini Card, Jason Goodwin takes us back into his "intelligent, gorgeous and evocative" (The Independent on Sunday) world, as dazzling as a hall of mirrors and utterly compelling.

Istanbul, 1840: the new sultan, Abdülmecid, has heard a rumor that Bellini's vanished masterpiece, a portrait of Mehmet the Conqueror, may have resurfaced in Venice. Yashim, our eunuch detective, is promptly asked to investigate, but -- aware that the sultan's advisers are against any extravagant repurchase of the painting -- decides to deploy his disempowered Polish ambassador friend, Palewski, to visit Venice in his stead. Palewski arrives in disguise in down-and-out Venice, where a killer is at large as dealers, faded aristocrats, and other unknown factions seek to uncover the whereabouts of the missing Bellini.

But is it the Bellini itself that endangers all, or something associated with its original loss? And why is it that all the killer's victims are somehow tied to the alluring Contessa d'Aspi d'Istria? Will the Austrians unmask Palewski, or will the killer find him first? Only Yashim can uncover the truth behind the manifold mysteries.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Near the start of Edgar-winner Goodwin's fine third historical to feature the eunuch Yashim, who serves the Ottoman rulers of early 19th-century Turkey (after 2008's The Snake Stone), Yashim's close friend Stanislaw Palewski, the Polish ambassador to the Turkish sultan, accepts an undercover assignment on the sultan's behalf. Posing as an American, the diplomat travels to Venice in an effort to locate a portrait of Mehmet the Conqueror (who reclaimed Constantinople from the Christians in 1453), painted by the legendary artist Gentile Bellini. Fortunately for Palewski, Yashim, who has a secret plan for the painting's recovery, intervenes in time to set the mission on the right track after the murder of two art dealers. While Yashim initially plays a backstage role, the eunuch and a shadowy power broker engage in an exciting and complex duel of wits in the book's final quarter. Once again, Goodwin skillfully blends deduction, action sequences and period color. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In this third installment in a series (after The Janissary Tree and The Snake Stone) set in the 1830s-40s, Goodwin returns to the exotic world of the Middle East, but only briefly. Yashim, the eunuch detective, is instructed by the Ottoman sultan to go to Venice to find a portrait of Mehmet the Conqueror painted by Bellini, but Resid Pasha requests he avoid any extravagance in purchasing the painting. To please both, Yashim sends a friend, the impoverished Polish ambassador Palewski, to go in his stead, masquerading as an American connoisseur. As Palewski searches for the portrait, a killer stalks the city and all who have a connection with the Bellini. The resulting tale is as labyrinthine as the watery thoroughfares of Venice. Beautifully evocative and filled with characters whose thoughts and deeds are as much a mix of Italy and the Orient as the city itself, this is a book to be savored. Series fans will not be disappointed, and new readers will find themselves seeking out Goodwin's earlier works. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/08.]
—Pamela P. O'Sullivan

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Investigator Yashim , #3
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Read an Excerpt


HE sank slowly through the dark water, arms out, feet pointed: like a Christ, or a dervish, casting a benediction on the sea.

The stone at his feet hit the mud with a soft explosion, his knees buckled, and in a moment he was bowing gracefully with the tide. He had always been graceful, pliant, too, when fixing a price, a man who traded and left something in the deal for the other fellow.

Overhead, the killer turned his head from side to side, alert to the slightest motion in the darkness, feeling the rain on his face. He stood for a few minutes, waiting and watching, before he blinked, turned, and padded softly from the bridge, to be swallowed up by the night and the alleyways of the sleeping city.

The tide ebbed. The water sucked at the green weed that lined the walls, gurgled around old pilings, and slipped and receded from worn stone steps. It sank, nudging the trader closer to the sea on which, in her days of glory, the city had made her fortune. Beneath Byzantine domes, dilapidated palaces, and tethered boats the corpse was hustled noiselessly toward the sea, arms still flung wide in a gesture of vacant welcome.

Yet some obstruction, a block of stone or loop of rotten rope, must have checked his passage for a time, for when dawn broke, and the tide slackened, the trader was still yards away from the deep waters of the Riva dei Schiavoni into which he would have otherwise sunk without further trace.

THE BELLINI CARD Copyright © 2008 by Jason Goodwin

Meet the Author

JASON GOODWIN is the Edgar Award–winning author of the Investigator Yashim series. The first five books—The Janissary Tree, The Snake Stone, The Bellini Card, An Evil Eye, and The Baklava Club—have been published to international acclaim, alongside Yashim Cooks Istanbul, a cookbook of Ottoman Turkish recipes inspired by the series. Goodwin studied Byzantine history at Cambridge and is the author of Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, among other award-winning nonfiction. He lives with his wife and children in England.

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The Bellini Card (Yashim the Eunuch Series #3) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Bellini Card Jason Goodwin FSG, Mar 3 2009, $25.00 ISBN: 9780374110390 In 1840, the new Ottoman Empire Sultan Abdulmecid orders the eunuch Yashim to travel to Venice to obtain a portrait of Mehmet the Conqueror painted by Bellini. However, before leaving for Italy, Resid Pasha directs Yashim to keep the expenses including the purchase down. Yashim asks his friend impoverish Polish Ambassador Stanislaw Palewski to masquerade as an American to help locate the portrait of the hero who took Constantinople from the Christians in the fifteenth century. In Venice while Palewski conducts his search, a killer has murdered two dealers connected to the Bellini masterpiece. Soon the Polish Ambassador becomes a target of this unknown murderer, but Yashim working from the shadows keeps his friend safe while trying to obtain the painting. The third Yashmin historical thriller (see THE JANISSARY TREE and THE SNAKE STONE) is an enjoyable fascinating look at Venice and at the Ottoman Empire. Interestingly Yashim plays second fiddle for much of the early part of the novel, but once he comes on stage, he and his adversary battle in am electrifying contest. Fans will enjoy this terific nineteenth century mystery due in part to the investigations into the portrait and the killer, but also because of the deep sense of time and place. Harriet Klausner
eagle3tx More than 1 year ago
The best yet. I have read all of the series and continue to recommend to friends -- a little trouble convincing them to give it a try considering the main character is a eunuch. I am fascinated by the historical perspective -- so much I didn't know about the 1830s in Istanbul. I find myself doing google earth to see the locations covered in the books. The author has a truly winning and novel approach, and the characters have grown on me in each succeeding book. Thank you to Jason Goodwin for the time I've spend reading the books.
Tennesseedog More than 1 year ago
Another enjoyable mystery from this young writer. Here, Mr. Goodwin takes us to Venice to solve a puzzle which seems straightforward enough but turns into a suspenseful riddle. The familiar Turkish operative of the Sultan in Istanbul in the early 19th Century, Yashim, matches wits with an interesting array of Venetian characters as well as villans from Austria-Hungary and his hometown of Istanbul. The mystery of the Bellini painting and the interwoven story of the Contessa make for a pleasurable reading experience. Expect that Mr. Goodwin will throw in some of his usual delightful literary touches. From the use of Italian phrases and informative descriptions of Venetian history and architecture to the little things such as Yashim's cooking and sleuthing, this makes for a pleasant ride on the Grand Canal. There even are some surprises with Yashim's pal, Polish Palewski, getting top billing in the mystery and Yashim getting physical with the Contessa. Not bad for a eunuch. This is the third in the series and the books continue to evolve with more information on Yashim and his early years plus a new Sultan and further adventures sure to follow. A quick read and worth spending the time with.
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I enjoyed the descriptive nature of the writing. I haven't run across a book with so many (120) short chapters (one has just 96 words!). There was good character development of the major characters, leading you to think that you had a good sense of how they all fit in, until, that is, near the end, when the complexities are revealed. I thought there was a bit much of deus ex machina stuff going on, but the overall effect was good. I did get some sense of how Venice fits together, though I have never been there. And the historical connections were interesting - it makes me wonder how much of that was accurate history and hoe much was fiction - perhaps I'll have to check the history books about that!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jason Goodwin's cleverness and originality shine in the Yashim books. I don't ordinarily read mysteries or detective novels, but these are a lot of fun, and I am learning a lot about the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. You'll be surprised how sexy a eunuch can be.