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The Janissary Tree: A Novel Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books; 1st edition (May 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374178607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374178604
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Goodwin, the author of a well-received history of the Ottoman Empire, Lords of the Horizons (1999), makes a welcome shift to fiction with this impressive first of a new mystery series set in the empire's declining decades. In 1836, though the corrupt elite troops known as the Janissaries were crushed 10 years earlier, there are ominous signs that their influence still persists in the twisted alleys and secret places of Istanbul. A series of crimes, including the barbaric murders of several soldiers and the theft of some precious jewels, leads eunuch Yashim Togalu to delve into the past in an effort to separate legend from truth. With special access to all areas of the sultan's royal court, Yashim uses his network of contacts to try to solve the crimes. The author, no surprise, does an excellent job of evoking his chosen locale. While his sleuth's character may be less developed than some readers might wish, no doubt Yashim will emerge as a more rounded figure in future entries of what one hopes will be a long-running series. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Historian Goodwin, author of Lords of the Horizons (1999), introduces a promising new mystery series set in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. When a string of murders disturbs the tenuous tranquility of the sultan's royal court, savvy eunuch Yashim Togalu is called upon to investigate. Digging deeper into the past in order to understand the perils of the present, Yashim discovers a link between the crimes and the Janissaries, a disloyal band of elite soldiers banned by the sultan ten years earlier. As Yashim wends his way in and out of the opulent palace and through the sordid back alleys of nineteenth-century Istanbul, the reader is treated to an appropriately exotic tour of a time and a place where intrigue, deceit, and corruption fueled perilous personal and political passions. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Jason Goodwin is a best selling novelist, traveller and historian. His first book was all about tea, and his second described a 2000 mile walk from Gdansk, on the Baltic, to Istanbul, on the eastern Mediterranean. That turned into an obsession with the ancient capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. He thinks that the best way to learn about a subject is to write about it, so he wrote Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, described by Jan Morris as 'a high-octane work of art'. Time Out called it 'perhaps the most readable history ever written on anything' and the New York Times Book Review generously chose it as their cover story - with the result that it sold 50,000 copies in hardback in the first week.
His Istanbul-based series of historical thrillers began with The Janissary Tree, winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Novel. His novels have been translated into over 40 languages; the latest is The Baklava Club.
Jason lives in England with his family and a dog called Bridie.

Customer Reviews

I enjoyed the main character - BUT it is too slow.
This mystery novel, set in the Ottoman Empire in the 1830's, is not only a good mystery, but it also is a very interesting description of a very exotic time and place.
Burton Berkley
This book is a fun and entertaining read for those who love historical themed novels and mystery.
M. C. Large

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Isaiah 56:3

Investigator Yashim, the hero of Jason Goodwin's first novel, "The Janissary Tree" may be a Turkish eunuch but it is not at all likely that anyone reading this book will think of him as a "dry tree". In fact, if Yashim's steamy encounter with the beautiful but lonely wife of the Russian ambassador to Turkey halfway through the book is any indication, this is one heck of a unique eunuch.

I would love to have been present when Goodwin pitched the idea of a novel (and the first in a proposed series) about a crime-solving eunuch in Istanbul to his agent or publisher. Fortunately, someone had the good sense to green light this project as Goodwin has crafted a highly-entertaining book.

The Janissary Tree is set in Istanbul in 1836. Ten years earlier the Janissaries, the Sultan's version of the Roman Empire's Praetorian Guards, had been crushed by the "New Guard", the Sultan's standing army. Like the Praetorian Guards the Janissaries had evolved from a protective legion to one that terrorized the populace and the Sultan. Now, ten years later, the mysterious disappearance of four members of the New Guard and the murder of one of the Sultan's harem heralds the possible return of the Janissaries. The return of the Janissaries threatens to destroy the Sultanate and the relative calm of Istanbul. Enter Investigator Yashim. He is given ten days to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Yashim is soon engulfed in murder and intrigue. Bodies begin to appear in bizarre places as Yashim and his friends (including a somewhat decadent Polish Ambassador who has no country to represent and a transvestite dancer) try to get to the bottom of this alleged revolt.

Goodwin is very good at keeping the plot boiling (in more ways than one).
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Douglas S. Wood VINE VOICE on July 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
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
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Stephen McHenry on September 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Not only set in the location of Istanbul in the 1830s but also set inside the fabric of the Ottoman empire life; there a clever and resourceful eunich is the go-to man when the Sultan's mother wants to solve the murder of a haarem girl and at same time the head of the army has a slight problem with officers starting to turn up dead in unusual ways. The author's strength is his understanding of the Ottomans and Istanbul; the reader sees and feels the strength of history and culture and its effect on the story. The characters are interesting, the mystery believable, the resolution smart and creditable. Written in 2006 in the structure influenced by Dan Brown's short chapter keep-it-moving style, it was a very enjoyable read and I hope there are more to come.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. T. Sullivan on January 31, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From all the wonderful reviews this got, both here on amazon and elsewhere, I have to admit I was expecting more from this mystery set during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. Goodwin is a skillful writer, and he has an obvious love for Turkey and its culture, but the plot seemed hackneyed and the execution was less than riveting.

The protagonist Inspector Yashim is a colorful character, but I cared so little for everyone else in the book that I had a hard time finishing it. I hope in between writing the Janissary Tree and his next book, Goodwin brushed up on what makes a good mystery thriller, and can deliver a plot line and set of supporting characters that equal Inspector Yashim.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By EinLA on December 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
I wanted to like it - I have spent months in Turkey, a fair bit of time in Istanbul, enjoyed the culture and history, so I thought why not give it a try. I enjoyed the main character - BUT it is too slow. The story (what little of it there is) drags, as almost every chapter (and they are quite short) begins with a long and detailed description of a place or character, like a guide book. And I appreciate that it is billed as a novel, but really, it is a mystery - one that moves quite slowly. Maybe you want to read about the history of the Genoese tower (or some other such thing) every 2nd or 3rd page - but I don't. I've been there, I've seen it. Give me some story, a mystery that moves along more quickly. Do I really have to read all about the ingredients of this dish and that dish? So I began to skip over paragraphs - not my favorite way to read a book. Maybe you won't mind all of the exposition - I prefer a narrative that moves - particularly in a mystery!
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