In The Globe & Mail, Margaret Cannon writes:
Jason Goodwin won an Edgar for The Janissary Tree, his first novel set in 19th-century Istanbul, featuring the eunuch, cook and investigator Yashim. It was a brilliant debut, followed by the equally fine The Snake Stone, but in The Bellini Card, Goodwin and Yashim really hit their stride.
There’s a sultan and a Bellini portrait, and the plot takes Yashim and his friend Palewski to Venice in all its slightly sultry, slightly tawdry glory. There is a murder, of course, and the suspects include faded aristocrats and a mysterious and very beautiful contessa. If you want to completely escape the chilly, dreary modern world, this is the book to take you away.
New in – this from Carol Memmott writing in USA Today:
Jason Goodwin’s series starring a eunuch detective serving the Ottoman Empire’s sultan is as much literary novel and historical fiction as it is a mystery. In The Bellini Card: Investigator Yashim Goes to Venice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 288 pp., $25), the eunuch Yashim and his friend Stanislaw Palewski, a Polish diplomat, tackle the assignment of discovering whether a rumored portrait of Mehmet the Conqueror by the painter Gentile Bellini exists and, if so, to buy it for the sultan. The investigation takes these clever, endearing detectives to Venice, where lucky readers are transported to a fascinating period in Venetian history.
And here’s the review from National Geographic’s Traveler magazine:
A Venetian Journey by Don George
Bringing a contemporary city to life in words is an extraordinary enough challenge. But bringing a mid-19th-century city to life is infinitely more challenging. Edgar Award-winning mystery writer Jason Goodwin overcomes the challenge with vigor and grace in The Bellini Card, his third in a series of historical mysteries featuring the eunuch investigator Yashim, who serves the Ottoman court in 19th-century Istanbul. In this new book Yashim journeys to Venice at the behest of the new sultan to search for a legendary portrait of Mehmet the Conqueror, painted by Gentile Bellini. From its fast-paced dialogue to its interlacing political and social intrigues to its atmospheric depictions of Venetian life, The Bellini Card presents a riveting and revealing journey in time and space.
I agree with the “Globe and Mail “that “The Janissary Tree” is a “brilliant debut”, but Mr, Goodwin betrays his youth. One trims a wick by cutting away the charred portion, which can’t be done with the glass in place. (Cf. p. 4 & 15.) Mr. Goodwin seems to think “trimming the wick” means adjusting it up or down. He obviously did not grow up with oil lamps as did I.
Thank you for your comments – I’m really glad you enjoyed the book and delighted to still have youth to betray. But I don’t think I have revealed my ignorance here.
One operation, trimming the wick, involves physically snipping the cloth to keep it even and clean. But by one of those involuted coincidences of language, trim also means to adjust, to balance, as in trimming a ship. That has nothing to do with snipping down the masts, either. So we call an equivocator a trimmer, like the Vicar of Bray, who adjusted his views to the prevailing orthodoxy.
Here’s my experience of oil or paraffin lamps: every so often the wick needs a slight adjustment, either to reduce somking or to stop flickering. Turning that knurled knob up or down is, in fact, trimming the wick.
Hence, in my OED: ‘4. spec. To put (a lamp, fire, etc.) into proper order for burning, by removing any deposit or ash, and adding fresh fuel; also, to cleanse or cut level ( a wick)…’
De brand in Istanbul en De kaart van Bellini .
Nu de zweedse scrijver Henning Mankell gestopt is met trillers schrijven is nu de weg vrij voor Goodwin !
Hoop dat er snel wéér een boek verschijnt 🙂
En mogelijk een verfilming van zijn boeken komen.
Mr Goodwin–I’ve love all your books and am currently a third of the way through Bellini! Excellent as always. One quibble. In 1840 the Hapbsburg Emperor was the unfortunate Ferdinand I–surely it’s his portrait that would be on the wall in the Austrian offices? (Francis II had been dead 5 years; presumably even the notoriously slow Autro-Hungarian bureauocracy would have gotten the new empereor’s portrait out by then)
In any event, keep up the good work.
Thank you for that. You’re right, of course; Ferdinand was on the throne. What can I say – except thank you, and apologies? I must have popped down Francis II, meaning to check; and then it slipped us all by. Is this what the poet and philosopher Donald Rumsfeld meant by an unknown unknown? Crikey!