Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pg. 69: Jason Goodwin's "The Snake Stone"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Jason Goodwin's The Snake Stone.

About the book, from the publisher:
The captivating return of Yashim, the eunuch investigator from the intelligent, elliptical and beguilingly written" (The Times, London) bestseller The Janissary Tree

When a French archaeologist arrives in 1830s Istanbul determined to track down a lost Byzantine treasure, the local Greek communities are uncertain how to react; the man seems dangerously well informed. Yashim Togalu, who so brilliantly solved the mysterious murders in The Janissary Tree, is once again enlisted to investigate. But when the archaeologist’s mutilated body is discovered outside the French embassy, it turns out there is only one suspect: Yashim himself.

The New York Times celebrated The Janissary Tree as “the perfect escapist mystery,” and The Daily Telegraph called it “[A] tremendous first novel . . . Beautifully written, perfectly judged, humane, witty and captivating.”

With The Snake Stone, Jason Goodwin delights us with another transporting romp through the back streets of nineteenth-century Istanbul. Yashim finds himself racing against time once again, to uncover the startling truth behind a shadowy society dedicated to the revival of the Byzantine Empire, encountering along the way such vibrant characters as Lord Byron’s doctor and the sultan’s West Indies–born mother, the Valide. Armed only with a unique sixteenth-century book, the dashing eunuch leads us into a world where the stakes are high, betrayal is death — and the pleasure to the reader is immense.
Among the praise for The Snake Stone:
"Early 19th-century Istanbul's teeming mix of nationalities, religions and cultures comes alive in this vibrant sequel to the Edgar-winning The Janissary Tree (2006). When French archeologist Maximilien Lefèvre begins asking very pointed, well-informed questions about long-lost Greek artifacts and then is found dead outside the French embassy, series hero Yashim, a Turkish eunuch, finds himself suspected of the murder. His efforts to clear his name take him from markets and wharves to palaces and underground tunnels as he uncovers a secret society, unearths sacred relics and hunts the murderer. Goodwin's secondary characters, particularly Yashim's close friend Stanislaw Palewski, the world-weary Polish ambassador, are distinct and memorable, and the mystery presents an entertaining challenge to the reader as well as to charming, determined Yashim. With his second effort as intricate and delightful as the first, Goodwin takes his rightful place among such distinguished British historical mystery writers as Lindsay Davis and the late Edith Pargeter."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"When you read a historical mystery by Jason Goodwin, you take a magic carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth…The needless complications of the plot — which sees evil intent in everything from the journals of a learned Greek society to the induction rites of the watermen's guild — actually work in its favor by evoking the chaos of life in the ancient city that straddles the Golden Horn. Goodwin presents this in sumptuous detail, in scenes that take Yashim from the social heights of Topkapi Palace to the dregs of the docks, with a fragrant side trip into the spice market at the Grand Bazaar, source of the ingredients for the elaborate Ottoman dishes he serves his eccentric friend, Stanislaw Palewski, an ambassador of the now-defunct nation of Poland. Their erudite table talk is always lively, as are the conversations Yashim initiates with anyone who has a story to tell. These exchanges don't always have anything to do with the plot, but they provide the nicest kind of traveling music for that magic carpet ride."
--Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

"Goodwin uses rich historical detail to elevate the books ... far above the realm of everyday sleuthing.... [H]e manages to develop such a large and exotic cast of characters that the human intrigue in the series trumps its much-flaunted expertise."
--Janet Maslin, New York Times

"The second in a thrilling and entertaining series, Goodwin scored another winner."
--The Herald

"It's a pleasure to meet again the infinitely civilised and intelligent Yashim ... The vivid portrait of the lost world of the Ottoman Empire seem to carry with it the faint whiff of the mysterious East ... a rich mixture adding up to an excellent and enjoyable crime novel."
--Literary Review

"Yashim's second outing, and it easily lives up to the promise of Goodwin's earlier novel, The Janissary Tree ... Goodwin's knowledge of Istanbul is extraordinary ... makes a perfect summer read."
--The Sunday Times (London)

Read an excerpt from The Snake Stone.

Jason Goodwin is the author of Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, among other award-winning nonfiction. The Janissary Tree, his first novel in the series featuring Yashim, was published in May 2006 to international acclaim.

The Page 69 Test: The Snake Stone.

--Marshal Zeringue