Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Janissary Tree (Introducing Investigator Yashim)

Posted by nliakos on January 17, 2015

by Jason Goodwin (Sarah Crichton Books/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2006; ISBN 987-0-374-17860-4)

I had already begin The Snake Stone (Number 2 in the series) when my local library branch notified me to go and pick up The Janissary Tree. First things first! I put The Snake Stone aside and went to get it.

I was hoping to get some background about Yashim himself: what exactly his job is (guardian? of whom?), or why he was castrated (Goodwin mentions that eunuchs were pretty rare by the 19th century in Istanbul), but no luck. Even in this first novel, Goodwin doesn’t really set the stage clearly. We are just dumped into the action: Yashim is awakened from a dream by a summons to the serasakier (city commander of the New Guard, or Royal Ottoman Army), who informs him that four of his young officers vanished, and one has just turned up murdered. He gives Yashim ten days to solve the murder and find the missing men before the sultan reviews the troops on the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the Janissary Corps, the New Guard’s predecessor, which had become too powerful and corrupt. In addition, the sultan’s mother charges Yashim with finding out who stole some of  her jewels from the harem. Yashim manages to solve both cases (just in time!), risking his own life and that of a friend while on the trail of an assassin who commits extremely grisly murders (personally, I could have done with less graphic violence).

It’s all pretty confusing; I often found myself searching through the earlier chapters in an attempt to figure out who this or that character was. (It took three passes before I finally found Murad Eslek in Chapter 43, and even then, I wasn’t actually sure who he was.) A list of characters, such as Anne Zouroudi always provides in her Greek Detective novels, would be very helpful, as would a glossary (seraskier? kislar agha? valide sultan? tekke? kadi? Even if these terms were defined the first time they appeared, I couldn’t remember what they were later and found myself searching through earlier chapters again.) and a map of Istanbul. I must confess that when I came to the end, I couldn’t understand exactly what had transpired! (I seem to remember saying something similar about The Baklava Club.) But I am not put off; I intend to go back to The Snake Stone next.


2 Responses to “The Janissary Tree (Introducing Investigator Yashim)”

  1. […] « The Janissary Tree (Introducing Investigator Yashim) […]

  2. […] piqued my curiosity about the Ottoman Empire with the Investigator Yashim series, not only because I knew nothing about that period and place, but also because I really […]

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