Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Zimmerman (The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune, and a Dynasty) uses 1663 New Amsterdam as the intriguing backdrop for her promising fiction debut. The prologue sets the stage for the eventual integration of the two main plot lines: the worldwide hunt for the surviving judge commissioners who signed the death warrant for Charles I, marked for death by Charles II, and the disappearance of Piddy Gullee, an eight-year-old African-American girl later found murdered in the forest north of the New Amsterdam wall by a terrifyingly tall creature that looks to be half-man and half-beast. When the Dutch authorities show little interest in Piddy's fate because of her race, Blandine van Couvering, a 'she-merchant,' pursues the matter, and discovers that a number of young orphans have gone missing recently, possibly the victims of the witika, a flesh-eating demon from Algonquin legend. Fans of Eliot Pattison's Bone Rattler will find a lot to like. 5-city author tour. Agent: Betsy Lerner, Dunow, Carlson, and Lerner. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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
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.
A riveting tale from the author of The Orphanmaster about a wild girl from Nevada who lands in Manhattans Gilded Age society
Jean Zimmermans new novel tells of the dramatic events that transpire when an alluring, blazingly smart eighteen-year-old girl named Bronwyn, reputedly raised by wolves in the wilds of Nevada, is adopted in 1875 by the Delegates, an outlandishly wealthy Manhattan couple, and taken back East to be civilized and introduced into high society.
Bronwyn hits the highly mannered world of Edith Whartonera Manhattan like a bomb. A series of suitors, both young and old, find her irresistible, but the willful girls illicit lovers begin to turn up murdered.
Zimmermans tale is narrated by the Delegates son, a Harvard anatomy student. The tormented, self-dramatizing Hugo Delegate speaks from a prison cell where he is prepared to take the fall for his beloved Savage Girl. This narrativea love story and a mystery with a powerful sense of fableis his confession.
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.