An Evil Eye by Jason Goodwin is the fourth book in the Ottoman mystery series featuring Yashim, the Sultan’s investigator and eunuch. Beginning with The Janissary Tree, Goodwin has brilliantly recreated 1840s Istanbul, an international port of devilish intrigue. In such a sophisticated world, only a well-trained and discreet palace servant such as Yashim can uncover the deadly mysteries that occur while at the same time preserving the reputation of the people he serves.

In his latest case, Sultan Mahmut II is dead and his young teenage son, Abdülmecid, has taken the throne bringing with him his coterie of staff including his concubines. It is a distressing time in the sultan’s harem as the deceased sultan’s concubines are replaced by much younger and more beautiful versions of themselves. The cruel bickerings following the displacement occurs at the same time as the body of a Russian spy is found drowned in the well of a Christian monastery on a small island not far from Istanbul. Yashim is sent to investigate and soon realises that he must confront his old mentor and nemesis, Fevzi Pasha, someone he has studiously avoided all these years and who is now commander of the Ottoman fleet. For this man has taught Yashim everything including how cruel humans can be. When people start to turn up dead in the sultan’s harem, Yashim soon begins to realise that the seeds of this case lie many years in the past and he must unravel the sticky strands carefully in order for him and his friends to survive.

In between the mystery are little nuggets of information about daily life in Istanbul including tantalising descriptions of Yashim cooking his meals. One of these days I really must try some of his mouthwatering recipes.

We are also reacquainted with Stanislaw Palewski, Yashim’s friend and the Polish Ambassador to the Sublime Port who still maintains his Embassy although now sadly diminished in monetary terms with the demise of a sovereign Poland. It’s these little political details which are fascinating. Goodwin is brilliant in bringing Istanbul with its complex political and military history alive while at the same time injecting it with the humanity that keeps you reading the stories.

I can’t wait to find out more, especially about Yashim’s own murky history.

I read this as part of R.I.P. VII.