I know I've read about this series somewhere before, but for the life of me I can't remember where. Anyway - pretty colourful covers caught my eye and I borrowed a few in a heap - The Janissary Tree (no 1), The Bellini Card (no 3) and An Evil Eye (no 4). They've won loads of awards and they're ever so exciting, say the reviews.
Frankly, they're a bit rubbish. I can't speak for the plots, because they end up not interesting me. What I can say is that orientalism is still alive and kicking. Although ... that is perhaps a little unfair. Goodwin limits his orientalism to womankind I think. What could you call that? They're all beautiful and lithe and so on and so on. In more than one place he lets Yashim reflect on how Westerners imagine the Sultan's harem to be like an orgy (if such a collective noun there be) of gorgeous females just lounging about half-naked, whereas in reality it's more like some sort of English boarding school (Yashim doesn't say that, but it's written somewhere else). Well, frankly Goodwin's descriptions all lie on the houri side of the spectrum more than anything else. Good Lord. Follow Austen's example and don't describe what you don't know.
Bonus for great descriptions of cooking and I like the Polish ambassador, the ambassador without a country. Otherwise more than a little meh. Although I did maybe learn about the Janissaries. Okay then.