The Orphanmaster

Written by Jean Zimmerman
Review by Pamela Ferrell Ortega

Jean Zimmerman has written a fascinating saga of early Manhattan Island – part mystery, part horror story, and part love story – in which every page is a pleasure to read. The characters are well-defined and hard to forget.

In 1663, Blandine van Couvering is a successful 22-year-old orphaned “she-merchant.” Manhattan is still a colony of the Netherlands, known as New Amsterdam, where women enjoy legal freedoms unheard of at that time. All that is soon to change, however, when neighboring English colonists conspire to claim it as England’s, all with the help of the dashing English spy Edward Drummond. As political change roils about them, the colony is confronted with disappearances and mutilations of orphans under the care of its “orphan master,” Aet Visser, the same person who raised Blandine. Hysteria grips the colony with rumors of Indian witches and supernatural monsters, endangering not only Blandine and Edward’s growing love but Blandine’s life, as she is accused of witchcraft while he is tried for espionage.

Fast-paced, filled with period detail and populated with multi-dimensional, conflicted characters, The Orphanmaster leaves you wanting more. It’s a great read, often very witty. Let’s hope Zimmerman has a sequel in store. Very highly recommended.