Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"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 and the first in a series featuring Yashim, was published in May 2006 to international acclaim.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the second Yashim novel, The Snake Stone, and reported the following:
Set in 1830s Istanbul, The Snake Stone is the second outing for my Ottoman investigator, Yashim, following The Janissary Tree, which won the Edgar Award for Best Mystery 2007.

My own fascination with Istanbul began when I walked 2000 miles across Eastern Europe to reach it in 1990. Later, inspired by that experience and driven by my own ignorance, I sat down and wrote a book called Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire. The Yashim mysteries naturally draw on my research, but they aren't history books with a mystery twist: they're thrillers through and through. The 1830s happens to be an era of tension, between those who would drag the Ottoman empire into the modern world, and traditionalists who look to the glory days of the past. It's a fertile time for murder and suspense.

Presiding over the narrow waters of the Bosphorus which link the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, Istanbul stands at the turnstile of the continents, with Asia on one side, Europe on the other. Not surprisingly, it has a fabulous heritage of good cooking – so, among his other attributes, Yashim is great cook.

He's also a eunuch.

Page 69? It's quiet time, a conversation with the French ambassador. A page earlier, and we're with Maximilien Lefèvre, a French archaeologist who has called on Yashim to help him get out of the city. As Yashim explains to the ambassador: 'I saw him off on a caique from Fener the night before last. I assumed he had left Istanbul.'

Only Lefèvre is now a corpse.

A page later, we realise that Yashim himself is the chief suspect.

The Snake Stone delves into the city's Byzantine past to reveal a shocking secret and a murderous betrayal.

You can find out more about the books – and Istanbul – at my website.
Read an excerpt from The Snake Stone.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue