THE SNAKE STONE, by Jason Goodwin

One of the pleasures of reading historical fiction is learning about lost worlds, long gone sights and ancient habits and dress. A glimpse into the past for many of us is irresistible. This novel delivers on all those levels. Jason Goodwin, an Ottoman scholar, brings back Istanbul-based Investigator Yashim in a puzzling, inctricate case. A sultan lays dying; merchants are murdered; a French adventurer vanishes. Yashim is mixed in with it all: in the unstable political climate, he is at risk as never before. While Yashim patiently cooks his exquisite meals, people of high and low station struggle to find victory. From the Sublime Porte and a solitary empress to the water channels that are the lifeblood of Istanbul, Yashim probes below the surface with exquisite care; he, after all, is the most likely to lose his life if he steps wrong. Subtle, mysterious, at times even confusing, only at the last few pages does all become clear. Satisfying. A 5.