Monthly Archives: February 2011

Starred review for An Evil Eye

Lovely to have a great review in Publisher’s Weekly – An Evil Eye is ‘masterful’, no less!

An Evil Eye
Jason Goodwin, FSG/Sarah Crichton, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-11040-6

Edgar-winner Goodwin’s masterful fourth mystery thriller set in Istanbul under the Ottoman Turks (after The Bellini Card) finds his series hero, the eunuch Yashim, attempting to navigate treacherous political shoals following the death of Sultan Mahmut II in 1840. International pressures heighten the uncertainty surrounding the empire’s direction under Mahmut’s youthful successor. In this tense climate, Yashim looks into the killing of an unknown man dumped in a Christian monastery’s cistern. A flap of skin cut from the body bearing a death’s-head brand, an item that someone tries to take from Yashim at gunpoint, may point to a Russian connection to the murder. While Goodwin excels at plotting, the book’s main strength lies in the assured depiction of a nation restrained by a corrupt leadership far removed from the old traditions of transparency and justice. The details of how Yashim prepares meals may amuse Robert Parker fans. (Apr.)

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Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson Mississippi

Is where the US Magic Carpet Tour for April 2011 is kicking off. I’ll be there on 6th April at 5.30 pm for reading and talking and signing. Come along – and send your friends, too!

The whole tour is a celebration of the independent bookstores of America, the people who make an effort to put new books in front of their readers, who know their stuff, care about what’s read, and create the proper atmosphere in their own stores. This is the week, after all, that the giant bookseller Borders filed for bankruptcy.

Lemuria fits the bill – and here’s a link to their thoughtful blog about the very future of books:

Greek fisherman’s stew: kakavia

In An Evil Eye, the fourth Yashim mystery, Yashim and his friend Palewski are invited to share a meal with some Greek fishermen. I’ve promised to give the recipe, so here it is. It contains one ingredient that sparks off a considerable debate about whether it is good for you, or not. I leave it to you to guess which one!

The main thing about making kakavia is to stay relaxed. You’ll make a fish stock using heads and bones (fishmongers call them ‘frames’, and give them away), a sofrito as a base, and then put in the fish to cook. If you like mussels, for instance, use them too. It’s catch-of-the-day stuff,nothing set in stone, but don’t use oily fish like salmon or mackerel.

The stock – easy. Just simmer a bunch of heads and bones in a pint or two of water, along with a pinch of salt, a few peppercorns and a bayleaf.

That’ll take about half an hour, so now you can get the sofrito underway. This is my favourite bit, because you can use your imagination to throw in anything you like, if you think it will be tasty – chilli if you want, chopped leek maybe, garlic (I would), and thyme. A few sliced potatoes are good – put them in as soon as the onion begins to soften. It’s really useful to have a heavy-bottomed pan, like a casserole, to take this part slowly – melt two or three sliced onions in olive oil until they turn clear, even a bit sticky, and then stir in a few chopped tomatoes, and simmer it down. I believe that a high-sided pan is best for this. So does Yashim.

Look to your fish. You might have 2-3 lbs (a generous kilo) of mullet, cod, hake, bass in any combination, but try to keep a mix of fish; have it filleted – skinned, too, if you like – and keep the pieces at least an inch square, or bigger.

When the stock is done, strain it into the sofritto – all hissing steam and then a comfortable bubble. Use as much stock as you want, depending how soupy you’d like this kakavia to be. I make it thick, so that it can be soaked up with bread, because the children seem to weary of eating soup. Not Yashim’s problem, of course.

Now stir the fish pieces into the stewing pan and simmer them for about ten minutes, till done but not collapsing. Mussels five minutes before the end, if you use them.

Good bread, squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper on the table.

Καλή σας όρεξη! Bon appetit…

The Magic Carpet Tour 1

Calling all readers in the USA – and their friends and relations, and the relations and friends and acquaintances of their friends &c.

When you read a historical mystery by Jason Goodwin, you take a magic carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth.” So Marilyn Stasio wrote sweetly in The New York Times.

Well, in April I’m going to take a Magic Carpet ride myself, to the exotic regions of America’s South and West, talking and signing and generally spouting in bookstores and radio stations, and I’d like to meet everyone I can while I’m there. It’s to coincide with the publication of An Evil Eye (Yashim no. 4) but I’m going to be travelling with my son, Izzy, on his first big away and the first time in America. Being 17 and a guitar and fiddle boy, he’s got his own ideas about, say, Jackson, Mississippi. I think: Old Hickory. He thinks: Robert Johnson. It will be fun.

Jackson (the 6th), then Oxford, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama, on the 8th; New Orleans next day. Then – and this is the great bit, because we’re driving much of it – we’ll do a Thelma and Louise to reach Austin around the 12th. Houston on the 15th, then San Diego, LA a while, San Fransisco on the 21st, where we’ll be a few days, before Portland, Oregon and Powell’s Bookstore on the 26th.

The bookstore readings should be lively: to judge from past appearances it’ll be conversation which might roam over history v historical fiction, the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East, novel-writing, characters… and this time a few thoughts on the blues, jazz,  and where to find the best grub in the South.

See you there!