For my 2009/2010 trip to Egypt, which included a 3-day stopover in Cologne, Germany for the Xmas festivities, I read SELF'S MURDER by Bernhard Schlink (translated from the German), and THE ANUBIS SLAYINGS by PC Doherty (set in Ancient Egypt). And when stopping over in the Kuala Lumpur airport on the way home, I went searching for Malaysian crime fiction. Finding none, I settled for BANGKOK EIGHT by John Burdett (I had spent about 30mins in Bangkok airport too) - a very fortuitious purchase - it was excellent.
Then over last Xmas/New Years I bought and read PHNOM PENH EXPRESS by Johan Smits (set in Cambodia), as well as another John Burdett book, BANGKOK HAUNTS, which was set in both Thailand and Cambodia. I didn't manage to find any Vietnam-set crime fiction, although I did find a fantastic bookstore in Hanoi, that provided me with plenty of quality reading to kickstart 2011.
Now today I am arriving in Istanbul, Turkey, on my latest travel adventure (I'm going to Gallipoli for Anzac Day, which is a pretty cool thing for Aussies and Kiwis). So I've scored myself some Turkish-set mystery reading for my trip; THE JANISSARY TREE by Jason Goodwin.
THE JANISSARY TREE is Goodwin's first novel in his internationally acclaimed Yashim detective series, set in 1830s Istanbul. It won the Edgar Award, so I'm really looking forward to giving it a read. Here's a synopsis:
The year is 1836. Europe is modernizing, and the sultan of the Ottoman Empire feels he has no choice but to follow suit. But just as he's poised to announce sweeping political change, a wave of murders threatens the fragile balance of power in his court. Who is behind the killings?
Deep in the Abode of Felicity, the most forbidden district of Topkapi Palace, the sultan - ruler of the Black Sea and the White, ruler of Rumelia and Mingrelia, lord of Anatolia and Ionia, Romania and Macedonia, Protector of the Holy Cities, steely rider through the realms of bliss - announces, "Send for Yashim." Leading us through the palace's luxurious seraglios and Istanbul's teeming streets, Yashim places together the clues.
He is not alone. He depends on the wisdom of a dyspeptic Polish ambassador, a transsexual dancer, and the Creole-born queen mother. He manages to find sweet salvation in the arms of another man's wife (this is not your everyday eunuch!). And he introduces us to the Janissaries.
For four hundred years, they were the empire's elite soldiers. But they grew too powerful, and ten years earlier the sultan had them crushed. Are the Janissaries staging a brutal comeback? And if they are, how can they be stopped without throwing Istanbul into political chaos?
Have you read THE JANISSARY TREE, or any of Goodwin's other Yashim books? Have you read any other Turkish-set crime or mystery fiction? Do you like reading crime novels set in 'exotic' places and/or travel destinations you may visit? Comments welcome.