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Goodwin, Jason - 'An Evil Eye'
Hardback: 304 pages (July 2011) Publisher: Faber and Faber ISBN: 0571239870

It is 1840 in Istanbul, a time when the Ottoman Empire is struggling on its last legs. The Empire has lost a lot of its power and is beset on all sides by more powerful countries wanting what little remains, and a new inexperienced Sultan, Abdulmecid, sits on the throne.

Yashim is a eunuch, in the Sultanís service, and trusted by many people for his clear head, compassion and diplomacy. So when the palace of Besiktas is in uproar as the women of the harem of the previous Sultan are encouraged to move out to make room for the women of the new regime, Yashim is asked to help by the Kislar aga, the master of the girls. The harem is full of intrigue as the women seek power and influence in any way they can. Yashim is also asked to sort out the problem of the dead body found in the well of a Christian monastery, a potentially explosive situation that causes trouble between the majority Muslim community and the Christians. When the dead man is identified as a Russian agent, and Yashim starts to ask questions, he finds his every move followed. All paths lead to the harem and Yashim must find the solution in historical events as well as in the present.

Yashim is also a wonderful cook, using the choosing, preparation and cooking almost as a mediation exercise. The food he cooks for himself and his friends is given in enough detail to wet the appetite. I have tried some of the recipes and can recommend them as well worth the effort.

I have read the previous books about Yashim. He is a fabulous character amid the fantastic and interesting setting of the last years of the Ottoman Empire. I do not know much about the political history of the time, but enough information is given to make the story interesting and understandable, written by someone with a love and great knowledge of the area and the history.

Susan White, England
January 2012

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 15/01/2012 09:15