An Evil Eye

Written by Jason Goodwin
Review by John R. Vallely

The history of the Ottoman Empire is an endlessly fascinating one, stretching across centuries and populated by a diverse set of people and an equally complicated number of political and social stresses. The Ottoman period, in short, is a perfect setting for historical novelists to ply their trade.

Jason Goodwin provides Yashim, a eunuch previously employed in the sultan’s harem, with a case involving dangers to the harem as the youthful Abdulmecid assumes power following Sultan Mahmut’s death. The mid-19th century was a time of decline for the Ottoman state, and Yashim’s travails in searching for an admiral’s treachery leads him to a series of baffling deaths among musicians in the sultan’s harem.

An Evil Eye is my first encounter with Yashim, and I quickly discovered the need to have read the previous three novels to fully understand the author’s tale. As it stands, I had limited success. I also found the number of subplots and characters to be far too numerous for even the most ambitious reader to digest. I still wish to stand with Yashim as he searches for truth, but reading the series in sequence may be required.