From the Publisher
“Edgar-winner Goodwin's absorbing fifth and final novel [is] set in the waning days of Ottoman Turkey. . . Goodwin well illustrates the complex crossroads of cultures, politics, and religions that mapped 19th-century Istanbul.” Publishers Weekly
“A worthy conclusion. Fans of the entries will not be disappointed, and new readers who enjoy historical mysteries set in exotic locations and periods will probably go back to read each title.” Library Journal
“Elegantly written” Kirkus
“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 with praise for Jason Goodwin
When a part-time sleuth—and full-time eunuch—happens upon a dastardly, if somewhat inept, nest of killers, what else can he do but save the day?Aboard a ship sailing from Bari to Istanbul, a man called La Piuma, "The Feather," leans over the rail, oblivious to the person standing behind him, a would-be assassin working for "The Committee," who decides to let him live another day. In Istanbul, the courtly eunuch/detective Yashim (An Evil Eye, 2011, etc.) enjoys an evening of culture at the Polish embassy with Ambassador Palewski and guests. They discuss the local political situation, the papacy and matters of artistic note in mid-19th-century Europe. Yashim is on hand when Palewski receives and pooh-poohs a warning about The Committee. Days later, he hears Natasha, a beautiful young Russian, spin tales of brutal killings and ominous plots. She and Yashim engage in what feels oddly like a romantic romp. Meanwhile, Giancarlo, Rafael and Fabrizio, a trio of energetic Italians, plot urgently but with questionable efficacy to complete the assignment postponed in the shipboard prologue. Their collaboration with the sketchy Father Doherty raises still more questions. With the help of the mysterious Marta, Yashim is eventually able to convince Ambassador Palewski that the expected Polish prince Czartoryski is in grave danger. Can the prince be intercepted in time and saved?Yashim's fifth, and reportedly final, case unfolds more like a picaresque caper than a whodunit, elegantly written and immersing the reader in exotic 19th-century Turkey. Still, it's a long and leisurely road to actions of consequence.
Read an Excerpt
THE man lives, or the man dies. It is a matter of the weather.
Tonight he will live: because the sea is smooth like watered silk beneath a crescent moon, the ship’s wake fanning out like a tear. The ship makes little sound: it is a still Mediterranean evening, and the timbers barely creak. A sailor in the fo’c’sle coughs; overhead a sail flaps and spanks the mast.
The man leans at the rail, looking out to sea; and the assassin stands back a little, also watching the wake of the ship as it slowly widens and ripples and disappears toward the empty horizon. He watches the incessant production of the wake, and scarcely glances at the man he has come to kill. La Piuma, “The Feather.”
It would be easy tonight, the assassin thinks. A murmured conversation at the stern rail, a quick blow to the head. Man overboard. Then the assassin might raise the alarm.
But that won’t do. The Committee wants La Piuma to simply disappear.
Better to wait for a wind. Cloud cover, more noise, the pitch and roll of the ship.
La Piuma can sleep in peace another night. He will eat another meal of fish, boiled chicken, and fruit with cheese, and drink his wine. Coffee will be served in the morning, if that’s what he wants.
Would he fight for this day’s grace? the assassin wonders, moving away along the deck. La Piuma was as good as dead as soon as the ship set sail from Bari to Istanbul. Would he be grateful to live even for one more dull, eventless day at sea?
He would, the assassin considers; yet he cannot answer why.
Copyright © 2014 by Jason Goodwin