It is 1836. Europe is modernizing, and the Ottoman Empire must follow suit. But just before the sultan announces sweeping changes, a wave of murders threatens the fragile balance of power in his court. Who is behind them? Only one intelligence agent can be trusted to find out: Yashim Togalu, a man both brilliant and near-invisible in this world.
You see, Yashim is a eunuch.
He leads us into the palace's luxurious seraglios and Istanbul's teeming streets, and leans on the wisdom of a dyspeptic Polish ambassador, a transsexual dancer, and a Creole-born queen mother. He finds sweet salvation in the arms of another man's wife. (This is not your everyday eunuch.) And he introduces us to the Janissaries. For, 400 years earlier, the sultan had them crushed. Are the Janissaries staging a brutal comeback?
©2007 Jason Goodwin; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
"A work of dazzling beauty....The rare coming together of historical scholarship and curiosity about distant places with luminous writing." (The New York Times Book Review)
This was one of the most riveting historical mysteries I have listened to in a long time. The wealth of detail about the Ottoman Empire and life in Istambul really makes this book come alive. I love historical mysteries that really make you live in the period and this is one of them. The detail is marvelous and adds to the depth of the book. While at first I didn't much care for the narrator, the more I listened the more I felt he was just right for the book and his ability to vocally differentiate the various characters in the book is really marvellous. Highly recommended.
This is a fascinating book in several respects. The plot of the mystery (with Yashim the Eunuch as detective) is convoluted and clever. The descriptions of Istanbul in the early 1800's, with the Ottoman Empire contracting, are really enthralling. But for me, the really special component was a vivid recounting of the history of Constantinople being over-run by the Turks, led by their Janissaries; and the way in which the Sultan's entourage was run. It is a highly worthwhile novel!
I found the stuff of the story to be one of those lovely mixes of history, great characters and mystery. Rather than getting in the way, I found the narrator's treatment of the story to add to the dark, misty, exotic elements within the story. I'm waiting for the next story in the series .....
As a lifeling voracious reader, I am fairly new to audiobooks. The narration is a new element for me, and adds a whole new dimension to the experience. A great fit, such as the novels by Chris Knopf combined with the downright perfect narration by Stefan Rudnicki, makes for an unforgettable experience. But, when the narration is annoying, it can render the book unlistenable.
Stephen Hoye reads almost every line in the Janissary Tree with the same cadence. Every line ends with downward note. DA-DA, DA-DA, DA-DAaaaa. DA-DA, DA-DA, DA-DAaaaa. I find myself distracted, trying to imagine at least five different ways the line could be said, other than Hoye's falling tone. It's my fault--I should have listened to the sample. (Note: I just listened to the sample, which does not give an indication of how limited this narrator is. I would have still selected the book, based on the sample. Sigh.) As the book seems fascinating, I will read it the old-fashioned way--in print.
This book has been highly praised and would likely be a good read, but it is way too subtle for casual listening. I repeated sections throughout, probably the entire book, trying to follow the plot line and story. This is one of those books that is better read than heard - an anomaly in my experience.
Plot, characterization and setting expertly written. Solid historical fiction.
Plot line was compelling. I was bothered by the descriptions of the macabre homicides, which is why I give it a "4", not a "5".
Easy to listen to.
Stephen Hoye's Polish accent sounded too much like a Yiddush accent!
One must listen hard to this story to keep the characters and storyline straight. In the end, only the historical aspects seem worth the trouble.
I love audioboks!
mysterious, exotic, adventurous
Yes at moments it did. I did not suspect the character that ended up being the nemesis.
Good mystery story, I love the historical aspect the most. Istanbul was brought to life for me. I especially appreciate the food descriptions. The story was good, a little unrealistic/fanciful but surprising and not too scary. Very suspenseful at moments!
Had read a book by the author and liked it very much but could not finish listening to this because of the narration. Will be careful to not buy anything else by this narrator. The voice is melodramatic and at times insipid; all in all, very annoying, ruining a good historical fiction.
I am a big fan of "period" pieces. "The Alienist", "The Name of the Rose" and "The Devil in the White City" are among my favorite books. I also enjoy experiencing unfamiliar settings and cultures. This, and the fact it won the Edgar, was why I chose to listen to this book. Unfortunately, I just could not get into it on any level. This caused my attention to the book to frequently drift. Replaying those parts I "skipped" did not seem to help. Maybe I was just having a bad day, or maybe the book was not as good as everyone else says it was. I will never know for there just is not anything there pulling me back into the story for a second listen.
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