Goodwin, Jason - 'The Bellini Card'
Jason Goodwin won the Edgar Allan Poe award in 2007 for his first novel with Yashim his brilliant detective who also happens to be a eunuch. His third novel featuring the same character opens in 1840, when Yashim is summoned to an audience with the new Sultan in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
The Sultan instructs Yashim to locate a missing masterpiece by the painter Bellini, which is rumoured to be in Venice. Yashim enlists the help of his friend Palewski, the Polish Ambassador.
Palewski travels to Venice in disguise as an American art collector from New York and starts to mingle with aristocrats and art dealers and other unusual people. Soon two dead bodies crop up and Palewski starts to realise that art in Venice can be a deadly business. The police start to become suspicious of Palewski's bona fides and are increasingly on the verge of arresting him for the crimes. Yashim has to rescue his friend in an original way.
This very charming and delightful novel will prove a great hit with all who have had the opportunity to visit Istanbul and Venice in modern times and equally with those who have not, but intend to in the future. It's evocative and lyrical descriptions anchor the characters in the period of early Victoriana. Goodwin excels at historical detail and I enjoyed it so much that I have ordered THE JANISSARY TREE which won him the Edgar in 2007.
Read another review of THE BELLINI CARD.
Terry Halligan, England