THE BAKLAVA CLUB, by Jason Goodwin

5/series. Constantinople, mid-1800's, the Ottoman Empire is past its prime, known as The Sick Man of Europe: corrupt, inefficient, its rulers advised by men (and the rare harem-bound woman) ruled only by their own survival. There are exceptions, and one is Yashim, a forty year-old eunuch who investigates for the sultan. And cooks fabulous meals in his spare time. But he is distracted by love: the pretty Natasha, daughter of a Russian exiled to Siberia, come to see the Sultan's mother and beg a favor. Natasha brings with her tales of sexual subjugation and terror, and the lonely Yashim is swept off his feet, almost literally. Click below for more...
Yashim's best friend is Count Palewski, the Polish emissary, a man whose country was gobbled up by stronger European powers, and he now lives patiently, awaiting the day when his country will be restored to itself. A trio of young Italians arrive in Palewski's shabby drawing room, revolutionaries, exiled by the Vatican. Then an Irish priest shows up, an alcoholic, who's in search of ancient manuscripts. But there's a third strand to what at first merely appears to be an odd assortment of people dropping by: an exiled Polish nobleman. Well, this is as far as I can go without spoiling your delicious journey. The series, beginning with The Janissary Tree, is best read in order. Goodwin, an Ottoman scholar, immerses you in ancient Turkey, in the culture and the way of life, and in a first-rate mystery that is only solved in the last few pages. Don't peek! It's a 5, with a slight bit of sex, maybe a 1. More good news: there's a Yashim cookbook on its way!
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