The Baklava Club (Yashim the Ottoman Detective)

Written by Jason Goodwin
Review by Juliet Waldron

The Baklava Club is the fifth (and purportedly the last) of the Edgar-winning Investigator Yashim stories, set in 19th-century Istanbul. This story begins in 1846, during the final, waning century of Ottoman power, and makes a fitting end-piece for this detailed and lovingly presented historical mystery series.

Three young Europeans, innocents abroad who have been duped into believing they are part of a revolutionary international spy operation, fall into Yashim’s orbit. Although our hero is older and far wiser than these aspiring revolutionaries, he introduces them to his friends and finds himself enjoying their wide-eyed appreciation of his exotic world. When the powerful valide, the Sultan’s mother, asks Yashim to take charge of another young visitor, a melancholy, mysterious Russian beauty named Natasha, all manner of murder and mayhem ensue.

Jason Goodwin is not only an engaging writer, but a Cambridge scholar and a Byzantine specialist (note his non-fiction work, The Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire), so the settings, the characters, and the intellectual ferment of the period are flawlessly presented. Fans of the series and of the wise (and sometimes vulnerable) Investigator Yashim will not be disappointed.