The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman (Viking, June 2012)
It is 1663 and the island of Manhattan is the colony of New Amsterdam. Dutch merchants are trading across the Atlantic Ocean and orphans are being transported from Holland by the smarmy Orphanmaster Aet Visser to work in the new country. Now orphans are going missing and are being murdered. Twenty-two-year old merchant and herself an orphan, Blandine von Couvering and a British spy Edward Drummond separately begin looking into these disappearance, but Blandine doesn’t trust Edward, looking to the African American giant Antony for guidance in this new wilderness as she tries to save the children and find a serial killer. Fears of an Algonquin trapper cursed by a demon who turns people into cannibals run rampant and heighten terror as the settlers in this wild country try to make a new life, and much money, for themselves. Blandine is a very modern character, emancipated at fifteen, a gunsmith, trader, child rights advocate and civil rights advocate, a worthy match for Edward with whom she finds herself falling in love as he accepts her for what she is and admires her strengths and convictions. Vivid characters and careful detail to everyday life in this new country bring to New Amsterdam to life for modern readers.