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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
From acclaimed historian Jason Goodwin (Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, On Foot to the Golden Horn: A Walk to Istanbul, et al.), comes this first work of fiction -- a detective novel of sorts set in 1836 Istanbul. Yashim Togalu, an imperial investigator for Sultan Mahmut II, is tasked with solving a series of gruesome murders involving officers of the sultan's New Guard. Yashim's particular condition -- he's a eunuch -- makes him the perfect undercover agent. He can gain access to areas (including the sultan's harem) off limits to other men; and because he is ignored and overlooked by the majority of society, he hears and sees things most imperial agents wouldn't be privy to.
The plot revolves around the Janissaries, the legendary and infamous Ottoman military force that was abolished (i.e., massacred) by Mahmut II in 1826. When Yashim uncovers a conspiracy to revive the Janissaries, he must expose the scheme's mastermind before he is killed -- and an empire is toppled….
Comparable to other historical mysteries like Caleb Carr's The Alienist, Matthew Pearl's The Poe Shadow, and Boris Akunin's The Death of Achilles, Goodwin's fictional debut is not only a first-rate historical whodunit, it's also a brilliantly complex re-creation of the melting pot of cultures that made up the declining Ottoman Empire of the mid-19th century. Goodwin meticulously describes the Istanbul of 1836, right down to the weave of clothing and ingredients in the food! Fans of historical fiction should devour this unusual mystery -- and look forward to the return of Yashim Togalu. According to the author, The Janissary Tree is just the first installment in a new mystery saga featuring the intrepid eunuch investigator. Paul Goat Allen