Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Orphanmaster” as Want to Read:
The Orphanmaster
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Orphanmaster

by
3.31  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,986 Ratings  ·  444 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 Cou
...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by Viking (first published 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Orphanmaster, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Tammy I wouldn't completely ignore but still read what the book is about and see if it might interest you. I find the more diverse the opinion the better…moreI wouldn't completely ignore but still read what the book is about and see if it might interest you. I find the more diverse the opinion the better the book. Everyone has their own taste of good and bad.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Meave
May 26, 2012 Meave rated it did not like it
First, the writing is awkward and clunky. It's third person omniscient, but she's inconsistent in her omniscience, like, sometimes we are with the crazy killer and we know just what he's thinking (and yes, it's exactly who you think it is), and sometimes it's a mystery. She doesn't seem to have a handle on how to deal with information, like, at all, so we either get confusing withholding, or a deathly dull information dump.

Second, Writing historical fiction doesn't mean you have to give us an "o
...more
Jane
Jun 29, 2012 Jane rated it it was ok
In my imaginary Fenimore Cooper School of Literary Offenses, there's a popular class on how to write irritating historical novels. Writers are encouraged to apply modern ideas to past cultures. Jean Zimmerman surely took this course. Her heroine Blandina, who lives in New Amsterdam just before it falls to the British, is an independent trader. So far so good. But then we find she's best buddies with the African Americans shunned by the rest of the colony, not to mention with a native American. H ...more
Sara
Aug 31, 2012 Sara rated it liked it
This book had a lot of amazing qualities: historical facts, interesting premise, some well developed and unique characters, but it lacked proper pacing to keep you hooked. Thrillers need to read like a runaway train, and this read more like a commuters local.
Ruth
Every now and then I read a book that just takes my breath away. It feels like the author wrote the book just for me, and I just can't put it down. This one, which I won through the goodreads' first reads (yeah!) giveaways was just that. It was just so brilliant that I'm really struggling how to put it into words.

It is set in a period of history about which very little is written in historical fiction - early New York history, when it was still a tenuous colony of intrepid Dutch men and women, g
...more
Paul Pessolano
Aug 22, 2012 Paul Pessolano rated it it was ok
“The Orphan Master” by Jean Zimmerman, published by Viking.

Category – Fiction/Historical Fiction

In 1663 Lower Manhattan was called New Amsterdam and was a Dutch Colony. The Dutch had a civil position known as “The Orphan Master” whose job was to watch over children who had lost both their parents.

Aet Visser was “The Orphan Master” for New Amsterdam. He placed children in homes or places where they could work.

Edward Drummond, an Englishman, comes to New Amsterdam to scout the area for a possible
...more
Maria
Jan 26, 2013 Maria rated it it was ok
Jean Zimmerman writes in the afterward to her historical novel, The Orphanmaster, that her husband asked her to, “Write me a murder.” She should have ignored him and concentrated on writing an historical adventure novel that interweaves the lives of its characters with the historical and political events of the time, instead of an ill-conceived and poorly executed period murder mystery.

The best parts of the novel involve Blandine Van Couvering’s rise as a female trader in the Dutch colony of New
...more
Emily
Apr 06, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: review-books
This is a 4.5 for me, and the only thing that kept me from giving it a five is the crutch of formula mystery/crime writing that it leans on. The setting is outstanding, though. 17th century New Amsterdam is not a time/place I have read about before and Zimmerman captured the sounds, smells and sights of it as well as the inhabitants. A mixture of Dutch, English, German, Indian and African form the list of characters, and most are fully fleshed by the writing. There are significant scary moments( ...more
Susan Johnson
The novel is set in 1663 when the Dutch ruled Manhattan. It's a time period I know virtually nothing about so I was excited about the book. The Dutch had some very forward thinking ideas about women. A woman, after marriage, was allowed to work and retain property in her own name. The protagonist in the story is Blandine van Couvis, a merchant trader.

Blandine has some odd associates including a giant black man who survived a hanging and an Indian who sometimes practices a little cannibalism wh
...more
Alyssa Archambo Nelson
The best thing about The Orphanmaster is its historical detail. Zimmerman does an excellent job of setting the scene and integrating issues and concerns the colonists had during that time. The legend of the witika was delightfully horrific, and I enjoyed reading about it. This story has lots of drama to keep the reader entertained. Though the first half is a bit slow, the second half really picks up and it is simply a race to the end. I will say that this is not for everyone, as it is rather gra ...more
Lisa Senauke
Jun 27, 2012 Lisa Senauke rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best historical/mystery/suspense books I've ever read. Author Jean Zimmerman has written an incredibly compelling novel about life, love and murder in New Amsterdam (lower Manhattan) in 1660. Ms. Zimmerman's attention to detail and knowledge of life and the history of the early days of Manhattan bring realism and depth to this tale of grizzly murder, . The main character is a strong and spirited heroine, Blandine van Couvering - Blandine, an orphan herself, is artfully drawn i ...more
Edwin Battistella
Sep 06, 2014 Edwin Battistella rated it liked it
The Orphanmaster took a while for me to get into—too long, I thought—but when I finally did I was hooked. It’s a murder thriller and a historical novel of the 1660s, set in fertile locale: the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, where a native creature called a witika is thought to be stealing and devouring orphans. There’s a determined she-trader hero, a dissolute but seemingly good-hearted bureaucrat in charge of orphans, an English spy charged with tracking down the regicides who sentenced Charles ...more
Jennifer
Jan 06, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was ok
A story about a fictional string of orphan-murders in Manhattan's 17th Century Dutch New Amsterdam colony is certainly a great idea for a book, but what type? Is it a murder mystery? a historical romance? or is it literary fiction? Often, it feels like the writer herself hasn't quite decided. However, the final section of the novel delivers the answer with dead-on precision--it is a gruesome, nail-biting, shocker of a crime thriller. If only the preceding 375 pages matched the final 40. Still, t ...more
M
Jun 17, 2012 M rated it did not like it
Recommended to M by: MC Bonet
A proper murder mystery requires two very important elements: Sleuthing by its main protagonist/s (whether it be professional or amateur), and a tight, carefully structured "who done it" that serves up clues, red herrings, and plot twists to keep us guessing as to the murderer's identity and motives. 'The Orphanmaster' is sorely lacking in both of these departments. Blandine and Edward Drummond, the Dutch she-merchant and English spy who serve as heroine and hero as well as amateur sleuths, brie ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Review originally posted here.

The Orphanmaster is Jean Zimmerman's debut novel. It is not, however, her first foray into publication by any stretch of the imagination. Zimmerman is, first and foremost, a historian. Earlier this year, I read her recently published Love, Fiercely, and quite enjoyed it. Despite that, The Orphanmaster wasn't really on my radar, and I was going to let it pass me by. Then, one of the lovely folks at Penguin offered me a copy for review, and I couldn't say no. Guys, I
...more
Vicki
Aug 07, 2012 Vicki rated it it was amazing

An historical novel, yes, but oh so much more! Author Jean Zimmerman has meticulously researched the data on the colony established by the Dutch West India Company in the 1600s. The colony, New Amsterdam, will eventually become Manhattan, but in 1660 it is a bustling center of commerce under the iron fist (and wooden leg) of Petrus Stuyvesant. One of the bureaucratic jobs in the community is the Orphan Master. His job is to oversee and protect and provide for the orphans there. Orphans may have
...more
Daniel
I received this book from the publisher as part of Goodreads giveaway program, Firstreads.

It was difficult to come up with a rating for this first novel by historian Jean Zimmerman. There are aspects of it that are really great, and yet it also has serious problems. The novel presents itself throughout as a mixture of genres - historical, mystery, horror, romance - yet is packaged as a literary work. This hodgepodge creates problems, yet somehow the work as a whole came out better for me than an
...more
Natalie (Natflix&Books)
Jun 19, 2012 Natalie (Natflix&Books) rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I was so excited to win an advance copy of this book through Goodreads. The cover looked amazing (I know, I know) and the story sounded so interesting, even if it wasn't my usual cup of tea. So the story takes place in what was once New Amsterdam and which is now Manhattan. The Dutch have control of the area and live more freely than their English conterparts. Women are allowed to trade and own property, former slaves are free to live as they please, and Native Indians mix (fairly) freely with t ...more
Elli
Jul 11, 2012 Elli rated it really liked it
Recommended to Elli by: Diane, Donna
This is set on Manhattan Island, part of New Amsterdam, a trading Dutch settlement very early in the history of our country as a new country. Things are just beginning to simmer as far as who owns, who has rights in trading, all those qualities that are disputable to those looking for business possibilities and how to best exploit them. And the new world is ripe with possibilities. Peter Steyvestant is the head of the colony and is known for his unwavering strictness and strong ideas. The orpha ...more
Ann
Aug 21, 2013 Ann rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book. It takes place in 1663 in the Duthc settlement of New Amsterdam. Orphaned children are disappearing and murdered by an unknown sadist. There is panic in the town because of the rumors of the witika, an Indian demon known to cannabalize his victims. Blandine van Couvering is a young woman who has begun a trading business. She begins to look into the disappearances but is sidetracked by her travels for trading. She meets Edward Drummond who is an Englishman traveling as ...more
Beverly
Jul 28, 2012 Beverly rated it liked it
• The author who has written a non-fiction book on this time period, so she knows her stuff, but her writing did not appeal to me and at times the language was too much of the time so that made the story drag
• I really enjoyed the character of Blandine van Couvering and she is one of the reasons I kept reading – she was a strong independent woman that remained true to her ambitions while earning respect.
• There was really a position called “orphanmaster” who was “in charge” of the orphans (and a
...more
RuthAnn
Jun 11, 2012 RuthAnn rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Would recommend: Ehh

This is a super strange book. I think it tried to be like Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague or maybe The Crucible, but it came out so bizarre. It's like, early American settlement meets weird Dutch names meets independent heroine meets totally weird demonic possession and cannibalism. What? Like I said, SO WEIRD. Granted, I wanted to know how it ended, but when I read the last line, I think there was a giant cartoon question mark over my head, not because I didn't unders
...more
Keith
Apr 07, 2015 Keith rated it it was amazing
In 1663, what we know today as lower Manhattan, was a querulous little Dutch colony known as New Amsterdam. Although established by the Dutch, it became an international trading center facing a time of transition. Originally, home to various indigenous peoples, Europeans and nationalities of all ethnic origins began to move through this gateway to North America, bringing about change as well as conflict. In this challenging world of the frontier, death is not only common but a constant and predi ...more
kate
Apr 14, 2014 kate rated it really liked it
Should I add a bookshelf for cannibalism? Because that's one of the highlights of this book. A scary child-eating monster haunts the woods around New Amsterdam, the dutch settlement that would eventually become New York City. A young Dutch merchantess (I think that sounds better than she-merchant), who is herself an orphan, tries to get to the bottom of things with help from Edward Drummond, an Englishman whose purpose in New Netherlands is rather shady.
This unlikely pair would seem incredibly a
...more
Linda Orvis
Jul 27, 2014 Linda Orvis rated it it was ok
My husband read this first and really liked it. I agree with the reasons: an amazing historical account of a time and place we both had little knowledge of, and 2 likable main characters. All that said, in good conscience, I don't think I can recommend it to my friends, or anyone for that matter. I'll give three words why: cannibalism of children. Not a tasteful subject (forgive the pun).

On the back cover it states in big letters, A LOVE STORY. The truth is, the lack of solid genre in this book
...more
Taryn
Jun 06, 2012 Taryn rated it really liked it
A creature stalks the shadows of New Amsterdam. Known as the witika, it is a deranged beast that consumes the flesh of its fellow man. In Jean Zimmerman's The Orphanmaster, the witika has been blamed for a recent string of orphan kidnappings and killings. Dutch merchant Blandine von Couvering, who is an orphan herself, has her doubts, and sets out to solve the mystery with the help of British spy Edward Drummond, her servant/companion Antony, and Kitane, a Lenape trapper.

Though it had its faults
...more
Denise Eggleston
May 29, 2012 Denise Eggleston rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
The Orphanmaster is coming to eat you, or is he? Jean Zimmerman hath assayed several non-fiction tomes, but hath finally decided to scriven a novel. And why, you may ask, am I writing in an archaic fashion?

I just read, The Orphanmaster which is set in the colony of New Amsterdam in the 1660s and somehow the language seems apt. (Full disclosure, I won this book as part of Goodreads First Reader giveaway program.)

New Amsterdam belonged to the Dutch West India Company and was led by a peg-legged,
...more
Holly P
Jun 16, 2012 Holly P rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-hf
2.5

The Orphanmaster attracted me because it promised a feisty female heroine, the setting of New Amsterdam (back when New York wasn't even New York yet) and an intriguing mystery surrounding the disappearance of orphans from the colony. While I got the first two, unfortunately I didn't get the third. Blandine van Couvering is a beautiful young woman who, unwilling to settle down into the life of a good obedient house wife, ventures into the trade business and finds her true calling. As this is
...more
Jean
Jul 14, 2012 Jean rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
Just when I think I'm going to give on finding good fiction, a book like The Orphanmaster comes along. It has everything - good writing, a good mystery (the orphans keep disappearing and body parts are found), a romance, page-turning excitement, and an excellent interesting historical background. Oh, and a map (I love books with maps).
The story is set in 1600s New Amsterdam, just before the English took it over and turned it into New York. The Dutch settlement is being plagued by the disappeara
...more
Zoeytron
May 28, 2013 Zoeytron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This book had some of each in it. Too much, really. It runs the gamut – witchcraft, murder, cannibalism, espionage – a giant, a dwarf, a pirate, a man in scarlet heels, another with a peg leg set with silver (but not the pirate!), Indians, Dutch colonists, juvenile street gangs made up of errant orphans. You can pretty much pick your poison unless you want a kitchen sink thrown into the mix.

If your heart flutters easily, or you have a weak stomach, if your sensibilities are prone to be on the d
...more
Lorraine
Dec 05, 2013 Lorraine rated it it was amazing
One Sentence Summary
A British spy and a female trader form an alliance to investigate a series of kidnappings and gruesome deaths of orphan children in New Amsterdam, soon to become New York, in the 1660s.

Flashlights
5/5 Kept me hooked the entire way through. Sometimes historical fiction gets caught up in its own sense of splendid recreation of the past and you feel bogged down in the details, but not here. Zimmerman’s sentences are short and snappy and the plot never gets dragged down by inform
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Twelve Rooms of the Nile
  • The Book of Madness and Cures
  • Winter at Death's Hotel
  • City of Liars and Thieves
  • The Yard (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #1)
  • The Solitary House
  • The Sweet Smell of Decay
  • A Man in Uniform: A Novel
  • A Wicked Way to Burn (Bracebridge Mystery, #1)
  • The Falcons of Fire and Ice
  • Secret of the White Rose (Simon Ziele, #3)
  • The Bedlam Detective (Sebastian Becker, #2)
  • The Gods of Gotham (Timothy Wilde Mysteries, #1)
  • The Girl Below
  • The Truth of All Things
  • Land of Careful Shadows (Jimmy Vega Mystery, #1)
  • The Season of the Hyaena (Egyptian Mysteries, #2)
  • The Burgundian's Tale (Roger the Chapman, #14)
218080
Throughout her writing career Jean Zimmerman has published both nonfiction and fictional works that center around the changing role of women in America.

In Tailspin (Doubleday, 1995) she wrote about intrepid Navy fighter pilot Kara Hultgreen. Ballsy soccer players were the subject of Raising Our Athletic Daughters (Doubleday, 1998, with Gil Reavill). She covered heroic female homemakers in Made Fro
...more
More about Jean Zimmerman...

Share This Book



“On the same day, two murders.” 3 likes
“Drummond appreciated his guest's initial silence, his respect for the ancient, sacred act of imbibing. Drink first, talk later.” 3 likes
More quotes…