Wednesday, December 31, 2008

January Magazine: best crime fiction, 2008, part II

One title from January Magazine's list of the best crime fiction of 2008, part II:
The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin (Picador) 320 pages

The sequel to Goodwin’s Edgar Award-winning The Janissary Tree (2006), The Snake Stone is the second of his Istanbul novels to feature Yashim Togalu. Formerly a eunuch at the sultan’s court, Yashim has earned a reputation as a lala, or guardian, a man of discretion to whom people can turn in their time of need. When a French archaeologist throws himself on Yashim’s hospitality, and is then discovered horribly murdered, suspicion falls on Yashim himself -- but things are rarely what they seem in 19th-century Turkey. The plot is as pleasingly labyrinthine as its host city, employing history, archaeology and politics to flesh out a vibrant and meticulously detailed vision of the former Constantinople. Situated at the geographical crossing point between East and West, that city is a cultural melting pot that accommodates a bewildering variety of nationalities alongside its staple populations of Turks and Greeks. Goodwin, a historian, employs a rich and lyrical style perfectly suited to the stately pace, and The Snake Stone (originally released last year, but new in paperback for 2008) is very much a compelling page-turner, a literary thriller. The most gratifying aspect of it all is that the plot is not simply grafted onto a historical setting; the city is as much a character as anyone else in the novel, and the uncovering of its layers is integral to the investigation of the murder at hand. Beautifully written and exquisitely crafted, this is an exotic jewel with a keen respect for the tradition of the genre’s classic private-eye narratives. -- Declan Burke
Read about another title to make the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Snake Stone.

My Book, The Movie: The Snake Stone.

--Marshal Zeringue