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
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 plotwhich sees evil intent in everything from the journals of a learned Greek society to the induction rites of the watermen's guildactually 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
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 talentsone of which is to engage in a kissing flirtation with a French minx named Amelie, despite his sexual limitationshe 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
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
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
"A magic carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth." The New York Times Book Review