Book Review: The Orphan Master


In 1663, the small Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, situated on the edge of the wilderness on present dayManhattan, is populated by Dutch, English and Native American inhabitants. It is a hardscrabble life for colonists in theNew World, and many children become orphans at an early age. They are taken under the care of the orphan master, Aet Visser, who finds families for the orphans and looks out for their welfare. However, several orphans have disappeared and only Blandine van Couvering is concerned. An orphan herself, she is now a young woman with her own trading business. She and Edward Drummond, a British spy, join forces and investigate the mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, the townsfolk start to whisper about the witika, the huge, ghastly creature from Native American lore that haunts the woods and eats human flesh.

“The Orphan Master” is debut author Jean Zimmerman’s well-researched and richly detailed description of 17th century life in the Dutch colony ofNew Amsterdam. The historical setting is vividly portrayed while the mystery of the missing orphans contributes to the suspense. Readers should be forewarned that the brutal nature of the crime may be shocking; however, this is a compelling story of human behavior and the harsh frontier. “Library Journal” describes it as “…a successful mix of historical fiction, spy thriller and horror.” Readers who liked Eliot Pattison’s Bone Rattler may enjoy this title.