Episode # 1

The Orphanmaster
A Novel

Jean Zimmerman

From a debut novelist, a gripping historical thriller and rousing love story set in seventeenth century Manhattan. Read More »

Historical Fiction
On Sale Date:

Audio-book ISBN


Viking Adult
432 pgs.

15 Hours; 12 CDs
Penguin Audio

Nora Rawlinson & Jean Zimmerman
discuss The Orphanmaster
Download Interview

View Chat Archive


Publisher Viking


From a young age Blandine van Couvering saw buying and selling as a delightful game. Trade was all she ever wanted to do.

This year was her year. The portents others saw as grave she interpreted as omens of her coming success. A great burning comet flew nightly across the heavens. On the first day of the last month of summer, a double rainbow aimed northward, pointing to the path of the North River, towards the fur-rich wilderness.

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.

About The Author:

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

Jean Zimmerman was born in Tarrytown, New York. An honors graduate of Barnard College, she is the author of several works of nonfiction, including Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance, and The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune, and a Dynasty. She lives in Ossining, New York. www.jeanzimmerman.com


“THE ORPHANMASTER is a sweeping novel of great and precise imaginative intelligence; it’s also the most entertaining and believable historical novel I’ve read in years. Jean Zimmerman is a debut novelist who already writes like an old master. Read any page of THE ORPHANMASTER and you’ll become an instant fan.”
Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life and Chang and Eng

“Here’s American history turned inside out, animated by Jean Zimmerman’s prodigious imagination. Monsters lurk in the shadows, chaos presses in, legends come alive, and one adventure leads with irresistible force to the next. THE ORPHANMASTER is a breathtaking achievement.”
Joanna Scott, author of Arrogance, Manikin, Various Antidotes

“With THE ORPHANMASTER, Jean Zimmerman performs mental sleight-of-hand. She takes readers on a time trip to Manhattan in 1663. She brings another time, place, and culture to life and makes it vivid.”
Lucia St. Clair Robson, author of Ride the Wind