The Janissary Tree

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The Janissary Tree

By Jason Goodwin

Faber £7.99, 329 pages

FT bookshop price: £6.39

A series of grisly murders in 19th-century Istanbul opens this award-winning debut novel by Jason Goodwin, acclaimed historian of the Ottoman Empire. His unusual detective is Yashim, a eunuch to the sultan. His position gives him access to all parts of the royal court while his status leaves him isolated but with “a knack of holding himself quiet and saying little, so that people tended to overlook his presence”. The other central figure is Istanbul itself, beautifully evoked, “the city to beat all cities, overcrowded and greedy”. The historical fabric is woven around the central mystery with a deft touch. With its unlikely hero, lively action scenes and exotic setting, the novel would make a fun film - if a Hollywood A-lister could be persuaded to play a eunuch.

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