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Yashim is no ordinary detective. It's not that he's particularly brave. Or that he cooks so well, or reads French novels. Not even that his best friend is the Ambassador from Poland, whose country has vanished from the map.
Yashim is a eunuch.
As the Sultan plans a series of radical reforms to his empire, a concubine is strangled in the palace harem. And a young cadet is found butchered in the streets of Istanbul.
Delving deep into the city's crooked alleyways, and deeper still into its tumultuous past, Yashim discovers that some people will go to any lengths to preserve the traditions of the Ottoman Empire.
Brilliantly evoking Istanbul in the 1830s, The Ottoman Detective is a fast-paced literary thriller with a spectacular cast, from mystic orders and lissom archivists to soup-makers and a seductive ambassador's wife. Darker than any of these is the mysterious figure who controls the
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.