The House of Windjammer

Written by V.A. Richardson
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

Amsterdam 1636, at the height of tulipmania. The merchant-shipping family of Windjammer is facing ruin. Four galleons have been ship-wrecked and there is no money to fmish building the Draco. When old Hercules Windjammer dies unexpectedly, the wolves begin to circle. The prestigious Council of Merchants, to which Hercules belonged, withdraws its support; and the unscrupulous money-lender Van Helsen sees his chance for a take-over.

Hercules’ fifteen-year-old son Adam is desperate to raise the money to complete the Draco, at least then he’d have a chance of restoring his family’s fortunes. But who can he trust? His father’s clerk, Gerrit, is up to something, but what? And why does the street urchin Wolfie keep following him? And what about the fire and brimstone preacher, Abner Heems? What Adam discovers about Heems shows him to be a dangerous man. Then Adam meets Van Helsen’s daughter, Jade. She seems sympathetic, but whose side is she really on?

Adam’s one hope for restoring his family’s prosperity is the fabulously valuable tulip bulb –– the Black Pearl –– and too many people know he has it.

This is the first in the Windjammer series and it promises a fast-paced, action-packed read. The historical research is unobtrusive but impressive and we believe in the author’s atmospheric depiction of life in 17th century Amsterdam. Caveats? I wanted to shake Adam for seeming so deliberately obtuse, wilfully fool-hardy and all-too-often stupidly short-sighted –– which is what happens when a book is plot-driven rather than character-driven. And Jade as a first name is 20th century. In the 17th century, it meant either a broken-down horse or a hussy!