The Orphanmaster

The Orphanmaster

Audiobook CD - 2012
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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."

Alternative Title: Orphan master : a novel
Publisher: [New York] : Penguin Audio, p2012.
ISBN: 9781611761054
Branch Call Number: Fic
Characteristics: 12 sound discs (930 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Additional Contributors: Guidall, George


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Nov 18, 2012

Well-researched, well-written historical novels always attract me, and Jean Zimmerman's The Orphanmaster does not disappoint. Zimmerman's novel is set in New Amsterdam, a colony established by the Dutch West India Company and which ultimately will become Manhattan, in 1663. The enterprising community grants greater-than-usual rights for the time to women, Africans and Indians. In this setting, 22-year-old Blandine van Couvering is an up-and-coming "she-merchant" who foresees an economic advantage in trading mink pelts. The colony also employs an orphanmaster, Aet Visser, who is assigned to find foster homes and, in some cases, work or servant's positions for the many orphans whose parents have died from smallpox or other diseases, from the trip across the ocean from the Netherlands or from the myriad other means of death common to the time. van Couvering is herself an orphan who has grown up under the orphanmaster's care, and she still considers him the closest thing she has to a father.

As the story unfolds, the colonists are beginning to recognize that orphans are disappearing. A young woman who ventures into a remote part of the surrounding forest returns hysterically to the city, explaining that she has stumbled upon children's bones in a fire pit surrounded by ritualistic signs the colonists attribute to the witika, a mythical, cannibalistic demon of local Indian folklore.

As witika fear runs rampant, the paranoid colonists look for humans to blame for the orphans' disappearances, and quickly begin to point at the orphanmaster and Blandine, whom they brand as a witch. Meanwhile, Blandine and her lover, English spy Edward Drummond, work to protect the orphan community and identify the real killer.

The Orphanmaster starts a little slowly and has so many characters that it takes a while to get them all straight. Once the book gets rolling, though, it's terrific and sometimes terrifying. It also should be noted that some scenes are gruesome -- however, they do accurately portray the behaviors and mindset of a serial killer.


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