Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman

            I gave this book 3 stars. About half the book was worth 4 stars, the other half was only worth 2 stars, so three seems like a reasonable compromise.

            The story itself was a good one. It held my interest and delighted me with its well drawn characters and locations. Zimmerman did a very good job twining the cultures of the Dutch colonists, the free black population and the local American Indian tribes. The story draws on aspects of all three and braids them into a tight tale. It is a good who-done-it, and the icing on this cupcake is the tidbits of history Zimmerman shares at the beginning of each chapter. It helps place the action in time, and served to remind me that events in the New World did not occur in a vacuum. They were influenced by and worked their own influence on events in Europe, Africa and Asia.

            All that being said, the story had some serious drawbacks. I did not like the way it was organized. I felt that some chapters were out of order. The story would have flowed better if it had been organized differently, and,we find out far too soon who the bad guy is. The suspense could have been drawn out and heightened further by leaving that info for later in the story. I also think the book should have had a different title. There is a character who is Orphan Master for the community, but he felt like a secondary character.  And while the main character is a woman who had at
one time been an orphan under his authority, it was only briefly. And, yes, the bad guy goes around killing orphans, but I didn't feel like he "mastered" them, it was more a case that the orphan children "mastered" his control causing him to gave in to his insanity and kill them.

            If you enjoy historical fiction, you might want to check out this book, but I don't think it ranks well among murder mysteries.

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