The Janissary Tree (Yashim the Eunuch Series #1)

The Janissary Tree (Yashim the Eunuch Series #1)

by Jason Goodwin

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312426132
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 05/15/2007
Series: Investigator Yashim , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 239,447
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

The Janissary Tree

A Novel
By Goodwin, Jason

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2006 Goodwin, Jason
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0374178607


Excerpted from The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin. Copyright © 2006 by Jason Goodwin. Published in May 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

1

Yashim flicked at a speck of dust on his cuff.

"One other thing, Marquise," he murmured.

She gazed at him levelly.

"The papers."

The Marquise de Merteuil gave a little laugh.

"Flûte! Monsieur Yashim, depravity is not a word we recognize in the Académie." Her fan played; from behind it she almost hissed, "It is a condition of mind."

Yashim was already beginning to sense that this dream was falling apart.

The marquise had fished out a paper from her décolletage and was tapping it on the table like a little hammer. He took a closer look. It was a little hammer.

Tap tap tap.

He opened his eyes and stared around. The Château de Merteuil dissolved in the candlelight. Shadows leered from under the book-lined shelves, and from the corners of the room--a room and a half, you might say, where Yashim lived alone in a tenement in Istanbul. The leather-bound edition of Les Liaisons Dangereuses had slipped onto his lap.

Tap taptap.

"Evet, evet," he grumbled. "I'm coming." He slipped a cloak around his shoulders and his feet into a pair of yellow slippers, and shuffled to the door. "Who is it?"

"Page boy."

Hardly a boy, Yashim considered, as he let the spindly old man into the darkened room. The single candle guttered in the sudden draft. It threw their shadows around the walls, boxing with one another before the page's shadow stabbed Yashim's with a flickering dagger. Yashim took the paper scroll and glanced at the seal. Yellow wax.

He rubbed his finger and thumb across his eyes. Just hours ago he'd been scanning a dark horizon, peering through the drizzle for lights and the sight of land. The lurching candlelight took his mind back to another lamp that had swayed in a cabin far out at sea, riding the winter storms. The captain was a barrel-chested Greek with one white eye and the air of a pirate, and the Black Sea was treacherous at this time of year. But he'd been lucky to find a ship at all. Even at the worst moments of the voyage, when the wind screamed in the rigging, waves pounded on the foredeck, and Yashim tossed and vomited in his narrow bunk, he had told himself that anything was better than seeing out the winter in that shattered palace in the Crimea, surrounded by the ghosts of fearless riders, eaten away by the cold and the gloom. He had needed to come home.

With a flick of his thumb he broke the seal.

With the scent of the sea in his nostrils and the floor still moving beneath his feet, he tried to concentrate on the ornate script.

He sighed and laid the paper aside. There was a lamp screwed to the wall and he lit it with the candle. The blue flames trickled slowly round the charred cloth. Yashim replaced the glass and trimmed the wick until the fitful light turned yellow and firm. Gradually the lamplight filled the room.

He picked up the scroll the page had given him and smoothed it out.

Greetings, et cetera. At the bottom he read the signature of the seraskier, city commander of the New Guard, the imperial Ottoman army. Felicitations, et cetera. He scanned upward. From practice he could fillet a letter like this in seconds. There it was, wedged into the politesse: an immediate summons.

"Well?"

The old man stood to attention. "I have orders to return with you to barracks immediately." He glanced uncertainly at Yashim's cloak. Yashim smiled, picked up a length of cloth, and wound it around his head. "I'm dressed," he said. "Let us go."

Yashim knew that it hardly mattered what he wore. He was a tall, well-built man in his late thirties, with a thick mop of black curls, a few white hairs, no beard, but a curly black mustache. He had the high cheekbones of the Turks, and the slanting gray eyes of a people who had lived on the great Eurasian steppe for thousands of years. In European trousers, perhaps, he would be noticeable, but in a brown cloak--no. Nobody noticed him very much. That was his special talent, if it was a talent at all. More likely, as the marquise had been saying, it was a condition of mind. A condition of the body.

Yashim had many things--innate charm, a gift for languages, and the ability to open those gray eyes suddenly wide. Both men and women had found themselves strangely hypnotized by his voice, before they had even noticed who was speaking. But he lacked balls.

Not in the vulgar sense: Yashim was reasonably brave.

But he was that creature rare even in nineteenth-century Istanbul.

Yashim was a eunuch.

Continues...

Excerpted from The Janissary Tree by Goodwin, Jason Copyright © 2006 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.

Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about The Janissary Tree are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Janissary Tree.


Discussion Questions

1. As we find out early on, Yashim is a eunuch. What about his being a eunuch makes him different from those around him? How do people treat him differently? Do you think he is treated more like a relic from a lost era, or is he more or less treated just like everyone else?

2. How different would this story be if it were set in a more contemporary time? In what ways would Yashim's style of investigation be different? What are the most striking differences between Yashim's methods and those of a contemporary detective? Could you imagine Yashim in a modern setting? Could he be a character on a show like CSI? Or is there something about his way of solving mysteries which doesn't fit in a modern scenario?

3. Why do you think Yashim and Palewski are such good friends? What is it about their personalities and their histories that makes them so well suited to one another? Would their friendship change if Poland were liberated during their lifetimes?

4. Why do you think Ottoman life was so regimented and ritualized, as with the master of the Soup Maker's Guild, who works passionately to keep novel ingredients out of all soup in Istanbul? Why do you think there was such a fear of novelty? How is crime investigation different in a culture which has so many codes and rituals? Is it easier or more difficult?

5. What was your impression of the shifting in narrative voice from one character to the next between the various chapters? Do you think the purpose of this was to give us an intimate view of multiple characters in Istanbul? Or do you think it was to show how people reacted to Yashim? Both? Neither?

6. What do you think motivates Yashim? Does Yashim have a passionate desire to see justice done? Is he motivated by a love of humanity? Duty? (e.g. p.95). Does he have multiple motivations? Is there anything petty that motivates him, or do you think his motives are noble?

7. There are multiple passages that talk about Yashim suffering, or being bitter (p.129, p. 253), or about what Yashim has to go through. What is it that makes Yashim suffer? Is it merely being a eunuch? Is it something else? If not, what about being a eunuch, in Yashim's time and place, could make him suffer so? Would you be bitter, or do you think you could learn to accept your condition without acrimony?

8. Part of Yashim's strategy as an investigator is to blend in, not to be noticed, not to call attention to himself (e.g. p.56). How do you think he does this? What is he trying to achieve through this sort of anonymity? Would he be able to pull off this sort of effect if he weren't a eunuch? Would he even have conceived of such a strategy if he weren't a eunuch?

9. What did you make of the conversational style of the dialogue? Do you think Goodwin opted for a more modern sound to make the world of 1830s Istanbul less foreign to contemporary readers? Or do you think that he was trying to illustrate to readers how people back then spoke in their own slang just as we do, and this is how they would have sounded to each other? Or do you think Goodwin had a different reason?

10. Do you think there's any possible compromise between the forces of change and the traditional? After ten years, could there not be a general amnesty for the Janissaries? Could not something of the Janissary mysticism and tradition make its way into the New Guard? Or can there be no middle ground? Who's right? What do you think would save the Empire? Which side do you think Yashim is most sympathetic to?

11. Did you expect the seraskier? Did anything in particular about his behavior make him seem suspicious? On p.286, he talks to Yashim about the necessity of forming an Ottoman Republic. What does he mean by that? Would such a thing have been possible? Do such ideas make him seem like a more sympathetic villain? Or is he merely a military dictator?

12. Do you think Yashim would have served under the seraskier if the coup had worked? Or was he too devoted to the Sultan? What would you have done in his place? Do you think that the Sultan deserves Yashim's loyalty?

13. Do you think that Yashim will change much as a person after his affair with the Russian princess? Will he become more confident? More masculine? Will such experiences help Yashim in his suffering? Do you think that Yashim will begin to seek out these types of relationships in the future?

14. What do you think would have had to happen in order for the coup to have been successful? Would there have been any possibility of it succeeding, given that the Russians, the New Guard, and the Janissaries all had a stake in it? What would you have done if you were the Sultan? How would you balance opposing forces, beat back your enemies, and bring about some sort of consensus?

15. What strikes you as the most exotic aspect of this book? The time-period? The culture? The place? Why does the world of The Janissary Tree seem exotic to modern Western readers? Does the exoticism of The Janissary Tree make Istanbul seem more inviting or more strange? Would you be interested in visiting Istanbul based on Goodwin's historical depiction of it in this book?

16. Yashim is a great cook — and all the murders in The Janissary Tree are, in effect, distorted recipes. Do you think cookery gives Yashim space to think? Is it part of his criminology, his method of detection? Or is it a means of escape, a way of relaxing? How do you think Goodwin uses food to draw us into Ottoman civilization as a whole? What kind of a cook do you think Yashim would be if this were set in contemporary America?

17. Jason Goodwin brings the city of Istanbul to vibrant life with well-researched historical detail. Would you consider Istanbul to be almost a character in the book, like Dickens's London? Or could the story happen almost anywhere? How does the setting affect the action and the atmosphere of the story? Was there anything about the city that surprised you? How do different characters — Yashim, the seraskier, the Valide — respond to the city in different ways?

Customer Reviews

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Janissary Tree 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very slow story line. It was interesting to learn about this countries culture, history, etc., but very boring. There was a lot they could have done with the story line, but just didn't develop.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love mystery and international lit, so I thought great a book with both. Boring! My mind kept wandering in this book from start to finish. I made myself get through it hoping it might get better. My daughter couldn't get past the first chapter. I gave it to my dad thinking it might be a man's book, but he didn't get far either. All of us are avid readers and this book just didn't make the cut for any of us.
NancyLibrarian More than 1 year ago
Istanbul in 1836 is a far cry from the Constantinople of Byzantine days, and Goodwin does an excellent job of portraying the city and a slice of the culture in that era when the Ottoman Empire was known as 'the sick man of Europe'. Nothing works as it was meant to, houses and standards are decaying, and yet people manage to carry on with day-to-day living--and dying. The detective of this new mystery series is Yashim Togalu, and because Yashim is a eunuch, he has access to the sultan's harem. Because he is a noticing sort with a network of contacts and friends, he is the investigator the sultan calls on to take care of problems that crop up, like finding one of his harem strangled in her room hours before she was to please the sultan. Other bodies turn up in more grisly locales, too, and Yashim fears that the Janissaries, once the elite soldiers of the empire and now a mercenary rabble after they were 'purged' 10 years earlier, are trying to stage a comeback and retake control of the crumbling empire. There is an unnecessary and quite awkward sex scene that makes no sense put in the latter half of the book. If that were left out, or at least made to harmonize with Yashim's physical state, the plot would be better off. But the characters grabbed my interest, and the descriptions of the Grand Bazaar brought back my own memories of the place, which, other than having electricity in spots, is probably unchanged from Yashim's day. I gave it 4 stars because I enjoyed Yashim and his old Polish friend, but 3.5 would be more accurate. I did buy the second book in the series, and see improvements already, I will write a review of The Snake Stone when I finish it.
B-2 More than 1 year ago
The story is somewhat of a standard paperback mystery/triller played in a magnificent setting of Ottoman Empire. I really enjoyed its historical and cultural feature, but I found the plot rather fantasmagoric, confusing and somewhat hard to follow. I grade the books as Buy and Keep (BK), Read Library book and Return ( RLR) and Once I Put it Down I Couldn't Pick it Up ( OIPD-ICPU). I am sorry to say but I personally grade this one as OIPD-ICPU.
SharonFL More than 1 year ago
The author is very comfortable with the story's environment and history. The characters especially the main one, Yashim, had such potential for being great but were just just shy of being interesting. The exception was the Polish ambassador. Since the plot was dependent on the characters' psychological profile to move the story along, it sort of missed the mark, too. Without giving the ending away, I can simply say I didn't feel their pain, thus, the reason for the whole story was sort of lost. However, the action sequences in the book were top notch! The author wasn't comfortable in writing the obligatory sex scene and it showed. And the repeated reference to sheathing the sword was a bit 13-year old boy inside joke with his pals. This was no spellbinder, but a good book for the beach. The author's story telling has a provocative and diverse era for his fabulously unique setting and potentially fascinating main character in Yashim. Hopefully, the next one in the series will capture that potential.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A beautiful work. An exciting book that always has you guessing. I could't put it down. This book is about an Ottoman eunuch, Yashim, who is trying to solve a murder and dissapearence mystery. The amount of historical research and information in this book was very rich. Without realizing it, you learn so much abour Ottoman and Turkish history. You never know or quiet fully understand what's going on until the end. I really loved the finish and enjoyed it. An inspirational work of art.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Goodwin has creatively melded the historic and exotic world of the Ottoman Empire with a striking murder mystery. Through the protagonist, Yashim, the reader experiences the diverse cultures and political under-currents of this exciting period. I look forward to the next Investigator Yashim story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Ottoman Empire and it's culture is endlessly fascinating. This book explores this culture along with several other undercurrents running throughout the book. This is a particularly interesting period when the 'modernization' of the empire is being done. Very interesting, informative and real.
maria_reads More than 1 year ago
but just a tiny bit hard to follow. I would have loved for Yashim to explain the entire plot to someone at the end, but it may actually be an echo of the theme of the book, that many things must be forever left unsaid.
eenerd on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Well paced and well written mystery located in Istanbul, Turkey during the Napoleonic age. Intersection of Europe and Asia, this is an amazing & exotic setting for a mystery. In one of the worlds largest cities at the time, just about anyone can pop up and anything can happen. Inspector Yashim, the *lala*, can go just about anywhere, which makes for an even better story. Goodwin also scored points with me by including a visit to the Imperial Archives and the sexy archivist!
LukeS on LibraryThing 8 months ago
In "The Janissary Tree" Jason Goodwin gives us an engaging murder mystery set in 1836 Istanbul. In the imperial capital, the sultan faces pressure from shrinking territory and waning influence, and when a young houri is his harem is murdered, he sighs and says, "Summon Yashim." Thus are we introduced to the intrepid and resourceful investigator who must solve not only the mystery of the harem murder, but also the apparent murder of four of the sultan's young officers. Are they related?We have major international intrigue, treason, stealthy murder, and our hero in and out of hot water. I love when an author puts a mystery in an ancient setting (see Steven Saylor and Ellis Peters for the two best), and I'd hoped to learn about and feel immersed in (late) medieval Istanbul. I got this, but it seemed like "Istanbul Lite." The mystery and intrigue work satisfactorily, but I would have liked a little more basic info and flavor. Mr. Goodwin paces his story pretty well, and hides the identity of whodunit well, too.If you're in the market for a medium-duty mystery with an exotic setting, give this a try.
TadAD on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is the first in Jason Goodwin¿s mystery series set in Istanbul in 1836, the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. It features Yashim Togalu, a eunuch in the sultan¿s service, who is called upon to solve a series of murders of Army officers, as well as the murder of a harem girl.Very soon, he is drawn into what appears to be a resurgence of the Janissaries. Founded in the 14th century, these elite soldiers had carved out an empire for the Turks. Over time, however, they had fallen into decay, extorting pay from the government and murdering sultans who attempted to reform them, until their brutal suppression in 1826.The mystery component of this book is average. It proceeds in a fairly straight line with only few twists and turns. The real strength of this book lies in the vivid portrayal of life in Istanbul, of the intrigues of Topkapi Palace, of the tensions and fractures as Turkey struggles to become a modern country and stave off the European powers anxious to extend their influence.Goodwin gives us a rich cast of supporting characters. I found myself wanting to know more about some of them and, hopefully, future books in the series will let us see a bit more of them.Those who enjoy historical mysteries will probably enjoy this book.
markatread on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is a messy, cluttered book. It is set in Istanbul in 1836 as the Ottoman Empire is dying. Yashim is a eunech and is called in to solve 2 separate mysteries. The book does pursue both mysteries but not necessarily diligently. There are a lot of secondary characters introduced and many of them are very vivid characters. Istanbul is perhaps the most vivid character in the book. Yashim follows multiple clues into dark alleys and finds information in interesting places. When it is time to solve the cases it is done quickly, somewhat out of left field and messily. In fact two of the main things Yashim has been trying to find - where the old Jannissary religious churches were at and where are the soldiers that have been kidnapped - don't really have that much to do with the ending of the stories. In fact he has spent most of the book looking for these things only to solve the mysteries without needing that information. Like I said this is a very messy, clutterd book. But in many ways it mirrors Istanbul in 1836, a crossroads city with all kinds of religious and political influences jocking for power. The city itself has dead end streets, running this way and that, with bazaars in oddly shaped spaces with fires rezoning property left and right. The messy, clutterd style of the book is very much in keeping with the city itself. In short, the book is actually more interesting than the mysteries are. The Janissary Tree won the Edgar Award for best novel of 2007. I read all the nominees and agree that by a very thin margin it is the best of the 6 books nominated. Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris was also a good book and was worthy of winning the award as well. The other book nominated that year that is worth mentioning is The Dead Hour by Denise Mina. I really liked the main character in the book and liked reading about her personal story though the mystery was much less compelling.
adithyajones on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A good historical mystery where Istanbul of 1836 brought alive by Goodwin's excellent writing..
FicusFan on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I enjoyed this book very much. It is an historical mystery set in Istanbul, Turkey in 1836 as the Ottoman Empire is dying. The POV character is Yashim, an investigator who is also a eunuch. His mutilation allows him to enter the harem where the imperial women live.There are two mysteries, first there are 4 military officer cadets who have been taken. Yashim is asked by the general to find the cadets. As the story progresses their dead and brutally murdered bodies are appearing one at a time in various public places in the city. Yashim also must find who has created the plot, and for what purpose.The second mystery is the murder of a young slave girl in the harem. She was to take her first turn in the Sultan's bed, but is found strangled. The Sultan's mother, the Valide also has jewels taken. Yashim must also solve these mysteries for the Sultan and his mother.The characters are interesting, and believable. There are also some wonderful quirky side characters whom you come to care about.The setting is done very well, and you get the feel of life in the city, of the fear of fire, of mobs, and of Yashim's cooking (I have a horror of foreign food in general and Turkish food in particular).I love historical mysteries that are done well. That are meaty and have good character development and great detailed settings. This book delivers on all counts.I want a good story and the feeling that the characters live before and after the story, not just cardboard cutouts that are airbrushed for a short stint in the book and then folded away. The only issue I have with the book is at the end. Yashim and the badie are on the roof and there is mayhem in the streets. The plan on the street doesn't work and the badie runs away, and eventually falls off the roof and dies. I don't understand why the plot didn't work. It wasn't explained that I could tell.Still I enjoyed the book and look forward to the next book in the series.
ladycato on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Istanbul, the navel of the world, on the cusp of Europe and Asia. In 1836, the world is quickly modernizing, but the oldest of sins remains the same: murder. Specifically, four of the sultan's soldiers have vanished, and one found dead and trussed in a large kettle. At the same time, one of the harem girls is also found murdered. The sultan calls on the services of Inspector Yashim, a brilliant man - or somewhat of a man, as he's also a eunuch. Yashim's status brings him scorn, but also full access to the harem and the knowledge of the sultan's French mother. The murder's clues point towards a resurgence of the Janissaries, the Ottoman's guards for centuries before were brutally removed a decade more. Now, as the sultan prepares to announce edicts to further westernize the empire, more dead bodies are staged, and Yashim rushes to solve the riddle before the empire itself is in peril.Wow. This book is an incredible mix of murder mystery and historical fiction. The city is as much a character as Yashim, Preen, the sultan, and the rest. Goodwin's level of detail is astonishing, and I found myself completely immersed in 1830s Istanbul. (Also, since I saw a Rick Steves program on the city recently, that helped me to picture everything.) I definitely want to continue with this series.
cameling on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Set in the 1830s, Istanbul seems peaceful with exotic spices perfuming the air. But 4 cadets of the New Guard are missing and their general, the seraskier, seeks the assistance of Yashim lala, the stealthy guardian of security, a trusted eunuch approved by the Sultan and who has access to the harem. When one by one, 3 of the cadets are found dead and in very disturbing circumstances, Yashim realizes that their disappearance and also the methods by which they are killed and where they are found has a greater significance to the country than anyone had initially thought. The Janissaries, the fighting machine of slaves to the Ottoman sultans, thought to have been destroyed and suppressed during a massacre on decree by the Sultan, seem to have resurfaced. But how is this possible? And where are they hiding? In addition to his task of finding these missing cadets, he's also summoned by the Sultan's mother, the Valide at the harem ... her jewels are missing and one of the harem women has been murdered. She has an odd hold over Yashim ... and he is to find her missing jewels.Intrigue abounds in this book, and nothing is as it seems. Woven through Yashim's investigations, is a colorful history of the Ottoman empire, the foreign forces that shaped her and the traditional practices that keep them a community. As Yashim starts to uncover secrets that have been shrouded for over 10 years, he becomes the target of sinister attempts on his life in unexpected places and in unexpected circumstances.
joririchardson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
"The Janissary Tree" is set in the dangerous, exotic world of 1800's Istanbul, Turkey. The country is doing its best to shift into a new, modern, more Western way of doing things, which is met with mixed opinions. The Janissary warriors, who have protected the city for 400 years, were executed by their own people ten years ago, and now may be re-surfacing, hunting for revenge. This is the setting for our mystery - being investigated by our detective, Inspector Yashim Togalu, a young eunuch.He is asked to look into a couple of cadets in the new modern army who have disappeared - and then turned up, murdered.The sultan himself also requests that Yashim investigate the murder of a girl in his harem.This was a great mystery! I am admittedly not normally that interested in mysteries, but this one may be the beginning of a new love for them. If this is what mysteries are like, I want to read more of them!Thankfully, this is only the first of Yashim's adventures.In these pages, Istanbul becomes a living, breathing, exciting place that you feel you've sunken into. The author not only gives you the history and the culture of the city, but the feeling of it as well. There is an atmosphere, which changes slightly in different sections of the city, but ever-present is that spicy, colorful flavor that you would expect from an Arabic setting.I love when authors are able to bring a different world to you, all contained in the pages of a book. I liked the character of Yashim, even though he did not seem very different from other detective characters like Poirot. He was a eunuch (that's different!), but the author has him sleep with a woman in the story. What is the point of him being a eunuch if he is going to also be running about having affairs? I felt a bit distant from Yashim in the story, but I'm hoping that we'll get to know him better in the other books of the series.Also, it wasn't the characters that the author focused on, but rather on events and the mystery itself.This mystery takes some thinking - and not in the 'figure-it-out' way, because you won't figure it out.It is a very complex story. I just love complicated tales you have to read with your mind whirling, trying to keep up.But here, I just wanted to be entertained. The author adds in quite a few lighthearted little scenes and bits of dialogue, but the majority of the story is probably too complicated.There are many, many, many characters. You are expected to remember the names of all of them - even minor people with long names who aren't really important to the story. Too many characters was definitely a flaw in this book.Also, expect to learn a lot in this historical mystery. Jason Goodwin has studied the Ottoman Empire extensively, and he wants you to know it. He also wants you to know as much about 19th Century Istanbul as he does, and he constantly throws details at you. To truly understand the full depth of this story, you must know the politics, the history, the customs, and the culture of this time period, and it's a lot.I feel that if I had already known about the time period before I started this book, I would have enjoyed it a lot more.Then again, I do love learning things when I read historical fiction, and I certainly did in this one.This is a great read, always exciting with short chapters and a steady stream of events and action. The setting was marvelous, and even though made overly complicated, the plot and the mystery were very enjoyable to read about.I will certainly be looking for the next book in this series.
LaurieRKing on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Great mysteries in an exotic setting with an intriguing protagonist. Delicious.
SeanSullivan on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Historical mystery set in the fading days of the ottoman empire with a enuch as a detective. This one got excellent reviews when it came out, but I wasn¿t that impressed. People say Goodwin really captures Turkey, but to me, it seemed poorly constructed. Saving grace ¿ excellent descriptions of food.
idiotgirl on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Audiobook. Best to read this on vacation. Nothing spectacular. But I have a soft spot for historical fiction--especially of the nineteenth century. And so how could I resist Byzantium, intrigue. Can't even remember why I bought this book. Probably not the best use of reading time. But fun overall. Okay. I'm easy.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Jason Goodwin sets 'The Janissary Tree: A Novel' in 1836 Istanbul, just ten years after Sultan Mahmud II destroyed the Janissaries in what was known euphemistically as The Auspicious Incident. The Sultan is now modernizing his army, but four of them have disappeared and begin to turn up dead. Simultaneously, one of the Sultan's harem is murdered. The 'detective' Yashim is called in to investigate both crimes. Yashim is unusual in literary history; for one, he's an Ottoman detective and for two, he's a eunuch. Believe it or not, Turkish detectives (see Graveyard Eyes and even eunuch detectives Four for a Boy (John the Eunuch Mysteries) can be found elsewhere. Nonetheless, Yashim's character is certainly an attention-grabber. The Janissaries had been the Sultan's household army for some 450 years including playing a key role in the final defeat of the Byzantine Empire at Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453. Are they behind the disappearance of the four soldiers of the new army? Is the murder in the harem related? As Yashim pursues answers he takes the reader through 19th century Istanbul, a teeming cosmos at the juncture of Europe and Asia inhabited by peoples from around the Meditarrean and beyond, but still tradition bound - dominated by Islam but claimed Jews and Orthodox Christian as well. Goodwin brings to bear his formidable knowledge of the region's history (see his Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empireand On Foot to the Golden Horn: A Walk to Istanbul) to create a lively sense of this wondrous city as rich in human history as any place on earth. His descriptions bring the sights and smells, - especially the smells of cooking - to life. He plays on the possibility that the Sultan's mother, the Valide Sultan, may have been the cousin of Josephine Bonaparte. And, Godwin's Yashim will almost certainly change your opinion about eunuchs. The major shortcomings of 'The Janissary Tree: A Novel' are the introduction of too many characters that are not developed and a couple superfluous side stories. A strong first novel by Jason Goodwin with more to come. A fun, engaging, and dare I say educational tale. Highly recommended.
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