The Orphanmaster: A Novel of Early Manhattan (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

When I think of Manhattan I picture tall
buildings with lots of hustle and bustle, and when I think of American history
I picture the Brits, French, and Spanish, I know the Dutch were here but they
do not come as easily to my mind.  In
1663 Manhattan was known as New Amsterdam, a Dutch trading colony.  It was a tense time; the Brits were in the
mood to take over the territory and will soon do so. Zimmerman brings a rich
abundance of historical detail to her story. 
Blandine, one of the main characters, made her way against all odds in a
man’s world. An orphan and a woman, she is now a trader, canny and determined,
an unusual role for a woman.  When the
colony’s orphans start to go missing, she takes a personal interest.  Blandine is aided in her investigations by
Edward, an Englishman and a spy with an agenda of his own.  Suspicion is spread around liberally.  If you like historic fiction, this mystery is
just the ticket.

— Deon Stonehouse


A love story wrapped around a murder mystery, set in seventeenth-century Manhattan

In 1663 in the hardscrabble colony of New Amsterdam—today’s lower Manhattan—orphan children are going missing and residents suspect a serial killer. The list of possible culprits is long and strange. Among those looking into the mystery are a shrewd young Dutch woman, Blandine van Couvering, and a dashing Englishman, Edward Drummond, whose newfound romance is threatened by horrible accusations.

            In this spellbinding work of historical fiction, Jean Zimmerman relates the harsh realities of life in early Manhattan, re-creating the sights, smells, and textures of the rough settlement surrounded by wilderness and subject to political turmoil. Compulsively readable and filled with New York history, The Orphanmaster will delight fans of Caleb Carr, Hilary Mantel, and Geraldine Brooks.

About the Author

Jean Zimmerman is the author several works of nonfiction, including Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance and The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune, and a Dynasty. She lives in Ossining, New York. This is her first novel.

Praise For…

Praise for The Orphanmaster:

The Orphanmaster is a sweeping novel of great and precise imaginative intelligence; it's also the most entertaining and believable historical novel I've read in years. Jean Zimmerman is a debut novelist who already writes like an old master. Read any page of The Orphanmaster and you'll become an instant fan.” – Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life and Chang and Eng

“Jean Zimmerman's seventeenth-century New Amsterdam teems with enough intrigue, lust, and madness to give our twenty-first-century Big Apple a run for its money. And money is what drives this book – liberating, corrupting, forming the only bulwark against a terrifying, chaotic New World. Zimmerman's wit and humanity shine light in a dark woods, creating an uncommonly rich debut.” – Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger

 “Here’s American history turned inside out, animated by Jean Zimmerman’s prodigious imagination. Monsters lurk in the shadows, chaos presses in, legends come alive, and one adventure leads with irresistible force to the next. The Orphanmaster is a breathtaking achievement.” – Joanna Scott, author of Arrogance and Various Antidotes

“[A] compulsively readable, heartbreaking, and grisly mystery set in a wild colonial America.” ALA Booklist

“A feisty young Dutch woman, an English spy, and a local demon all cross paths in 1663 New Amsterdam, in this Ludlumesque historical thriller…a successful mix of historical fiction, spy thriller, and horror.” Library Journal

"As in the best historical fiction, [Zimmerman] has created a kind of truce between the authority of the past and the accessibility of the present, revealing to us what it once meant to be alive, and what that history means to us now ... on nearly every page there is some unobtrusively offered word or description, of food, of architecture, of dress, that brings the period and its people into clearer focus." – USA Today

"Absorbing period fiction with the requisite colorful characters of the era." – The New York Daily News

Product Details
ISBN: 9780143123538
ISBN-10: 014312353X
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: April 30th, 2013
Pages: 432
Language: English