The Snake Stone (Yashim the Eunuch Series #2)

The Snake Stone (Yashim the Eunuch Series #2)

4.0 9
by Jason Goodwin, Stephen Hoye
     
 

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Istanbul, 1838. In his palace on the Bosphorus, Sultan Mahmud II is dying, and the city swirls with rumors and alarms. The unexpected arrival of a French archaeologist determined to track down lost Byzantine treasures throws the Greek community into confusion. Yashim Togalu is once again enlisted to investigate. But when the archaeologist's mutilated body is

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Overview

Istanbul, 1838. In his palace on the Bosphorus, Sultan Mahmud II is dying, and the city swirls with rumors and alarms. The unexpected arrival of a French archaeologist determined to track down lost Byzantine treasures throws the Greek community into confusion. Yashim Togalu is once again enlisted to investigate. But when the archaeologist's mutilated body is discovered outside the French embassy, it turns out there is only one suspect: Yashim himself. As the body count starts to rise, Yashim must uncover the startling truth behind a shadowy society dedicated to the revival of the Byzantine Empire, encountering along the way such vibrant characters as Lord Byron's doctor and the Sultan's West Indies–born mother, the Valide. With striking wit and irresistible flair, Jason Goodwin takes us into a world where the stakes are high, betrayal is death—and the pleasure to the listener is immense.

Editorial Reviews

Clare Clark
The real pleasure of The Snake Stone lies in its powerful evocation of the cultural melting pot that was 19th-century Istanbul. Goodwin is a historian by training, and his sharp eye combines with a poetic style to bring the city vividly to life, from the night boatmen in their lamp-lit caiques to the scents and colors of the bazaar to the food that Yashim lovingly prepares. Bitterly regretting the loss of his manhood, Yashim has sublimated his stolen desires into the sensual pleasures of cooking, and the book is crammed with mouth-watering descriptions of creamy pilafs and delicate mezze. The spice-scented flavor of this book lingers long after its plot is forgotten.
—The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
When you read a historical mystery by Jason Goodwin, you take a magic carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth…The needless complications of the plot—which sees evil intent in everything from the journals of a learned Greek society to the induction rites of the watermen's guild—actually work in its favor by evoking the chaos of life in the ancient city that straddles the Golden Horn. Goodwin presents this in sumptuous detail, in scenes that take Yashim from the social heights of Topkapi Palace to the dregs of the docks, with a fragrant side trip into the spice market at the Grand Bazaar, source of the ingredients for the elaborate Ottoman dishes he serves his eccentric friend, Stanislaw Palewski, an ambassador of the now-defunct nation of Poland. Their erudite table talk is always lively, as are the conversations Yashim initiates with anyone who has a story to tell. These exchanges don't always have anything to do with the plot, but they provide the nicest kind of traveling music for that magic carpet ride.
—The New York Times Book Review
Janet Maslin
As it revels in Istanbul as a place "positively overrun with mountebanks, schemers and dealers of every nationality, and none," this sinuous novel corrals as many of these operators as it can and then sets them to work hoodwinking one another. Yashim becomes the one beacon of clarity in an otherwise finagler-filled world…Yashim…most clearly gives this series its personality. As a man of many talents—one of which is to engage in a kissing flirtation with a French minx named Amelie, despite his sexual limitations—he moves charmingly across the book's complicated landscape. Whether he is stopping to cook, chat, cogitate, interrogate or renew old acquaintances at the harem, he is a detective with a difference. It takes a warmly appealing character to stand out amid the bustle of Mr. Goodwin's Turkish tableau.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Early 19th-century Istanbul's teeming mix of nationalities, religions and cultures comes alive in this vibrant sequel to the Edgar-winning The Janissary Tree(2006). When French archeologist Maximilien Lefèvre begins asking very pointed, well-informed questions about long-lost Greek artifacts and then is found dead outside the French embassy, series hero Yashim, a Turkish eunuch, finds himself suspected of the murder. His efforts to clear his name take him from markets and wharves to palaces and underground tunnels as he uncovers a secret society, unearths sacred relics and hunts the murderer. Goodwin's secondary characters, particularly Yashim's close friend Stanislaw Palewski, the world-weary Polish ambassador, are distinct and memorable, and the mystery presents an entertaining challenge to the reader as well as to charming, determined Yashim. With his second effort as intricate and delightful as the first, Goodwin takes his rightful place among such distinguished British historical mystery writers as Lindsay Davis and the late Edith Pargeter. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A leisurely mystery set in 19th-century Istanbul, the second in a series which began with The Janissary Tree (2006), winner of the 2007 Edgar Award. Providing continuity is Yashim, the eunuch and investigator who worked for the sultan. Now it's two years later, 1838, the sultan is dying, and Yashim has less clout, though he's still a confidant of the Queen Mother. The story starts with a bang when George, a Greek, is almost killed next to his vegetable stall. We'll find out much later that his misadventure is merely a red herring. Someone of more consequence is Max Lefevre, a shady French archaeologist with a passion for Greek antiquities described in a book he hides in Yashim's apartment. Lefevre is being pursued and begs Yashim for help; the eunuch gets him a berth on an Italian vessel, but next thing you know Lefevre is found dead, his face eaten away by dogs, outside the French embassy, and Yashim finds himself under suspicion. Who was pursuing the Frenchman? Could it have been the Hetira, a super-secret organization pushing for a new Greek empire? Its name keeps cropping up, then fades away in a story that proceeds by fits and starts. There are more puzzling murders (an Albanian waterman, a Jewish moneylender) but they're over in seconds, leaving plenty of time for Yashim to indulge his first love, cooking, and Goodwin, a British historian, to fill us in on Istanbul's fabled past and exotic present. The large cast includes a Greek banking family and the English doctor who attended Byron at Missilonghi. Nobody is quite who they seem, there may or may not be valuable relics above ground or below (there are two scenes in Istanbul's maze of tunnels), and through it all glides Yashim, agentle presence, who will fight only when he must. A mildly entertaining smoke-and-mirrors tale that teases more than it delivers. Agent: Sarah Chalfant/Wylie Agency
From the Publisher

“When you read a historical mystery by Jason Goodwin, you take a magic carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth.” —Marilyn Stasio, The new York Times Book Review

“Wonderfully entertaining . . . [Goodwin] uses short, punchy chapters and vibrant, atmospheric prose to bring the glory days of the Ottoman capital to life.” —Adam Woog, The Seattle Times

“A sinuous novel . . . Mr. Goodwin uses rich historical detail to elevate the books in this series far above the realm of everyday sleuthing. . . . Yashim moves charmingly across the book's complicated landscape. Whether he is stopping to cook, chat, cogitate, interrogate, or renew old acquaintances at the harem, he is a detective with a difference . . . a warmly appealing character.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“The real pleasure of The Snake Stone lies in its powerful evocation of the cultural melting pot that was nineteenth-century Istanbul. . . . Goodwin's sharp eye combines with a poetic style to bring the city vividly to lief.” —Clare Clark, The Washington Post

“Beguiling . . . You will blissfully lose yourself in Istanbul's winding back alleys and linger awhile in the city's bustling fleshpots and meet Lord Byron's physician as you watch the serenely intelligent and intuitive Yashim investigate.” —Rod Cockshutt, The News & Observer

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400110117
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
01/01/2009
Series:
Yashim the Eunuch Series, #2
Edition description:
Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Snake Stone

A Novel
By Goodwin, Jason

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2007 Goodwin, Jason
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780374299354

Chapter 1
The voice was low and rough and it came from behind as dusk fell.
“Hey, George.”
It was the hour of the evening prayer, when you could no longer distinguish between a black thread and a white one, in ordinary light. George pulled the paring knife from his belt and sliced it through the air as he turned. All over Istanbul, muezzins in their minarets threw back their heads and began to chant.
It was a good time to kick a man to death in the street.
The grainy ululations swept in sobbing waves across the Golden Horn, where the Greek oarsmen on the gliding caïques were lighting their lamps. The notes of prayer rolled over the European town at Pera, a few lights wavering against the black ridge of Pera Hill. They skimmed the Bosphorus to ÜskÜdar, a smudge of purple fading back into the blackness of the mountains; and from there, on the Asian side, the mosques on the waterline echoed them back.
A foot caught George in the small of his back. George’s arms went wide and he stumbled toward a man who had a long face as if he were sorrowing for something.
The sound swelled as muezzin after muezzin picked up the cry, weaving between the city’s minarets the shimmer of a chant that expressed in a thousandways the infirmity of man and the oneness of God.
After that the knife wasn’t any good.
The call to prayer lasts about two and a half minutes, but for George it stopped sooner. The sad-faced man stooped and picked up the knife. It was very sharp, but its end was broken. It wasn’t a knife for a fight. He threw it into the shadows.
When the men had gone, a yellow dog came cautiously out of a nearby doorway. A second dog slunk forward on its belly and crouched close by, whining hopefully. Its tail thumped the ground. The first dog gave a low growl and showed its teeth. 
2
Maximilien Lefèvre leaned over the rail and plugged his cheroot into the surf which seethed from the ship’s hull. Seraglio Point was developing on the port bow, its trees still black and massy in the early light. As the ship rounded the point, revealing the Galata Tower on the heights of Pera, Lefèvre pulled a handkerchief from his sleeve to wipe his hands; his skin was clammy from the salt air.
He looked up at the walls of the sultan’s palace, patting the back of his neck with the handkerchief. There was an ancient column in the Fourth Court of the seraglio, topped by a Corinthian capital, which was sometimes visible from the sea, between the trees. It was the lingering relic of an acropolis that had stood there many centuries ago, when Byzantium was nothing but a colony of the Greeks: before it became a second Rome, before it became the navel of the world. Most people didn’t know the column still existed; sometimes you saw it, sometimes not.
The ship heaved, and Lefèvre gave a grunt of satisfaction.
Slowly the Stamboul shore of the Golden Horn came into view, a procession of domes and minarets that surged forward, one by one, and then modestly retired. Below the domes, cascading down to the busy waterfront, the roofs of Istanbul were glowing red and orange in the first sunlight. This was the panorama that visitors always admired: Constantinople, Istanbul, city of patriarchs and sultans, the busy kaleidoscope of the gorgeous East, the pride of fifteen centuries.
The disappointment came later.
Lefèvre shrugged, lit another cheroot, and turned his attention to the deck. Four sailors in bare feet and dirty singlets were stooped by the anchor chain, awaiting their captain’s signal. Others were clawing up the sails overhead. The helmsman eased the ship to port, closing in on the shore and the countercurrent that would bring them to a stop. The captain raised his hand, the chain ran out with the sound of cannon fire, the anchor bit, and the ship heaved slowly back against the chain.
A boat was lowered, and Lefèvre descended into it after his trunk.
At the Pera landing stage, a young Greek sailor jumped ashore with a stick to push back the crowd of touts. With his other hand he gestured for a tip.
Lefèvre put a small coin into his hand and the young man spat.
“City moneys,” he said contemptuously. “City moneys very bad, Excellency.” He kept his hand out.
Lefèvre winked. “Piastres de Malta,” he said quietly.
“Oho!” The Greek squinted at the coin and his face brightened.
“Ve-ery good.” He redoubled his efforts with the touts. “These is robbers. You wants I finds you porter? Hotel? Very clean, Excellency.”
“No, thank you.”
“Bad mans here. You is first times in the city, Excellency?”
“No.” Lefèvre shook his head.
The men on the landing stage fell silent. Some of them began to turn away. A man was approaching across the planked walk in green slippers. He was of medium build, with a head of snowy white hair. His eyes were piercingly blue. He wore baggy blue trousers, an open shirt of faded red cotton.
“Doctor Lefèvre? Follow me, please.” Over his shoulder he said: “Your trunk will be taken care of.”
Lefèvre gave a shrug. “À la prochaine.”
“Adio, m’sieur,” the Greek sailor replied slowly.  Excerpted from The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin. Copyright © 2007 by Jason Goodwin. Published in October 2007 by Sarah Crichton Books, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

Continues...

Excerpted from The Snake Stone by Goodwin, Jason Copyright © 2007 by Goodwin, Jason. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Jason Goodwin's books include A Time for Tea: Travels Through China and India in Search of Tea; On Foot to the Golden Horn: A Walk to Istanbul; and Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire.

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