When the Ottoman Empire of 1836 is shattered by a wave of political murders that threatens to upset the balance of power, Yashim, an intelligence agent and a eunuch, conducts an investigation into clues within the empire's once-elite military forces.
Jason Goodwin has unleashed his talent on a series of mysteries set in nineteenth-century Istanbul and starring the unlikeliest and most engaging of detectives: Yashim the eunuch.The Janissary Tree is the first in the series, and the year is 1836. Europe is modernizing, and the sultan of the Ottoman Empire feels he has no choice but to follow suit. But just as he's poised to announce sweeping political change, a wave of murders threatens the fragile balance of power in his court. Who is behind the killings? Deep in the Abode of Felicity, the most forbidden district of Topkapi Palace, the sultan - ruler of the Black Sea and the White, ruler of Rumelia and Mingrelia, lord of Anatolia and Ionia, Romania and Macedonia, Protector of the Holy Cities, steely rider through the realms of bliss - announces, "Send for Yashim."Leading us through the palace's luxurious seraglios and Istanbul's teeming streets, Yashim places together the clues. He is not alone. He depends on the wisdom of a dyspeptic Polish ambassador, a transsexual dancer, and the Creole-born queen mother. He manages to find sweet salvation in the arms of another man's wife (this is not your everyday eunuch!). And he introduces us to the Janissaries. For four hundred years, they were the empire's elite soldiers. But they grew too powerful, and ten years earlier the sultan had them crushed. Are the Janissaries staging a brutal comeback? And if they are, how can they be stopped without throwing Istanbul into political chaos?