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.
From a debut novelist, a gripping historical thriller and rousing love story set in seventeenth-century Manhattan
It's 1663 in the tiny, hardscrabble Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now present-day southern Manhattan. Orphan children are going missing, and among those looking into the mysterious state of affairs are a quick-witted twenty-two-year-old trader, Blandine von Couvering, herself an orphan, and a dashing British spy named Edward Drummond.
Suspects abound, including the governor's wealthy nephew, a green-eyed aristocrat with decadent tastes; an Algonquin trapper who may be possessed by a demon that turns people into cannibals; and the colony's own corrupt and conflicted orphanmaster. Both the search for the killer and Edward and Blandine's newfound romance are endangered, however, when Blandine is accused of being a witch and Edward is sentenced to hang for espionage. Meanwhile, war looms as the English king plans to wrest control of the colony.
Jean Zimmerman brings New Amsterdam and its surrounding wilderness alive for modern-day readers with exacting period detail. Lively, fast paced, and full of colorful characters, "The Orphanmaster" is a dramatic page-turner that will appeal to fans of Hilary Mantel and Geraldine Brooks.
About the Author
Jean Zimmerman was born in Tarrytown, New York. An honors graduate of Barnard College, she is the author of 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.
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