The Snake Stone (Yashim the Eunuch Series #2)by Jason Goodwin, Stephen Hoye
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
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.
The Washington Post
The New York Times Book Review
The New York Times
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
Read an Excerpt
The Snake StoneA Novel
By Goodwin, Jason
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2007 Goodwin, Jason
All right reserved.
The voice was low and rough and it came from behind as dusk fell.
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.
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.
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.
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Meet the Author
Jason Goodwin is the author of Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire and On Foot to the Golden Horn.
Actor Stephen Hoye is a graduate of London's Guildhall and a veteran of London's West End. An award-winning audiobook narrator, he has won thirteen AudioFile Earphones Awards and two prestigious APA Audie Awards.
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The story was a sequel to "The Janissary Tree" written by Jason Goodwin. "The Snake Stone" had the same local characters as the first book. Also, there were recurring themes where various cultures, and people from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East were brought together in the melting pot of Istanbul. For readers that wish to engage in the melding of the various cultures within the Turkish Empire during past ages, the book offers fun reading. The series is geared toward the niche of people that have a historian's eye for exploring history. Therefore, I would not recommend the book to people that don't have any desire or interest in themes written during historical periods, or bygone ages. The book compares Christianity, both Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic, as well as the Moslem faith of the Turkish Sultans. Also, there is a comparison between French, Polish, Greek, Turkish, Armenian, Italian, Roman, Russian and Byzantine cultures during the time period. The reader could fathom how the advances in culure, after the Napoleonic and Greek Revolutions, influenced the world, including Turkey. The plot revolves around a society of Greek Revolutionaries searching for a lost Byzantine/Roman artifact in the aqueducts of Turkey. There are references to Lord Byron, and archeological sites of later cities built upon older cities. Yashim, the Sultan's chief investigator, must get to the bottom of the mystery. There are chase scenes in the ancient aqueducts, and catacombs of ancient Constantinople, or later referred to as Istanbul. Yashim can be shown to be a Sherlock Holmes type of character. For many readers, the background to this story offers a unique and original character. So, Jason Goodwin, much to his credit, in writing these detective mystery stories, doesn't utilize a writer's poetic license to reinvent plots or characters from previously written material. Also, I've read stories regarding the Knight's Templar, and other religious knightly orders. So, to read about the fall of the Janissary's in the first book by a changing Turkish aristocracy, and a murder plot revolving around that time period with Russian influence was original. Again, people interesting in history, and historic fictional genres would be interesting in this type of book.
This is a good discovery among the many detective stories out there. It is unusual as its protaganist is a eunuch based in the 19th Century and working in an exotic locale, Istanbul. The author is very familiar with this locale and adds color on every page with geographical, historical, cultural or gastronomical references. The weaving of plot was interesting and engaging and the investigator, Yashim, is a captivating character, physical when necessary and emotional at other times. Just the kind of person to walk Topkapi palace and advise Sultans while remaining safe among the beautiful, sexy women of the harum. Check out the character of the Valide. This book is sure to send you to your dictionary and French primer.
This book takes the reader to a mysterious time and place. I love Yashim he is believable, likable and interesting. The characters fit well into the story. The plot is excellent. The scenes made me feel I was right there in this ancient past.
Yashim is suspected; but of course he is the good guy and again is triumphant. Love the way history is incorporated and presented.