C.W.'s Reviews > The Janissary Tree

The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin
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's review
Sep 11, 2011

it was amazing

In THE JANISSARY TREE, Jason Goodwin introduces us to a fascinating character: Detective Yasmin, a man whose keen observations of the world around him bring to life the tumultuous era of 19th century Istanbul. Yasmin is a eunuch, but not without his own appetites; favored by the palace, he is called upon by the Sultan, who is on the cusp of introducing sweeping changes even as he dwells in an archaic system of officials, harem girls, indolence and stifling etiquette. But when the bodies of four missing recruits begin to appear, each murdered in specific and horrific ways, a puzzling pattern emerges - one that pits Yasmin against a terrible, allegedly vanquished force.

The mystery is as interesting as it is complex, and Mr. Goodwin populates his fast-moving tale with a host of varied characters, including an alcoholic Polish ambassador, the sultan's sage and seductive mother, an enigmatic Russian noblewoman, and a transgender dancer. But it is the city of Istanbul that lies at the soul of his story - labyrinthine and teetering on the cusp between past and present, Goodwin depicts an irresistible portrait of spires and bathhouses and cafes, corroded by pernicious modernity and tarnished by age, infused with tradition and exoticism, and the violence of its multifaceted history. The city is as much a character in his tale as Yasmin himself, who finds himself trapped in his own way between reverence for what has been lost and the swift progression toward an uncertain and dangerous future.

Eloquent and detailed, written in elegant prose, THE JANISSARY TREE is a must-read for mystery lovers seeking something different in an overcrowded and often predictable market.

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10/17/2016 marked as: read

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