Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | June 2, 2010

molly’s cafe: the janissary tree

molly’s cafe is very rich in books.  i have an ongoing book exchange, so people bring in books once in a while and often take them out.  i have lots on the shelves still! often when people move, they bring in books that they are not taking with them.  others bring in books and just exchange them.  still others find what they want and buy them (only 5 lira apiece!). some bring me books that they think i will like.  i always get first choice!  recently some friends brought me a copy of the janissary tree, which i really enjoyed.

the janissary tree was a tree in sultanahmet on the square where the janissaries would meet and often they would literally hang one or more of their enemies there.  the janissaries are an important part of the janissary tree.  it was written by jason goodwin, who also wrote a history of the ottoman empire.  i am not sure which was written first, but the janissary tree is full of historical detail.  it is a mystery, with probably the only eunuch detective in the genre.  the hero’s name is yashim and he is called upon to help solve the mystery of four soldiers from the new army that had been kidnapped and killed in varioius gruesome manners.  at the same time, the valide sultan’s jewels had been stolen.  that seemed like a minor thread until the end.  the janissaries  were the old military, made up of young christians who had been taken to be raised as muslims. they had been forcibly disbanded 10 years before this story happens.  yashim visits the janissary tree, where he finds a poem from the karagozi sect, which was the one that  the janissaries  followed.  throughout his investigation, he tries to understand the poem.  in fact his investigation takes him to various places in old istanbul– the tinsmiths’  area, the soup master, the russian consulate (where he has a wild night with the consul’s wife), the place and harem, and many other places.  they are all described in loving detail.  the ending is really a surprise, as i had no idea who really had killed the soldiers or why. so, it is a good story full of historical detail.  i really enjoyed it and i am sure you will too!  it’s going on the shelves today, so hurry in if you want it.


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