cover image The Orphanmaster

The Orphanmaster

Jean Zimmerman. Viking, $27.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-670-02364-6

Zimmerman (The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune, and a Dynasty) uses 1663 New Amsterdam as the intriguing backdrop for her promising fiction debut. The prologue sets the stage for the eventual integration of the two main plot lines: the worldwide hunt for the surviving judge commissioners who signed the death warrant for Charles I, marked for death by Charles II, and the disappearance of Piddy Gullee, an eight-year-old African-American girl later found murdered in the forest north of the New Amsterdam wall by a terrifyingly tall creature that looks to be half-man and half-beast. When the Dutch authorities show little interest in Piddy’s fate because of her race, Blandine van Couvering, a “she-merchant,” pursues the matter, and discovers that a number of young orphans have gone missing recently, possibly the victims of the witika, a flesh-eating demon from Algonquin legend. Fans of Eliot Pattison’s Bone Rattler will find a lot to like. 5-city author tour. Agent: Betsy Lerner, Dunow, Carlson, and Lerner. (June)