THE DUTCHMAN
Meyers, Maan

(Doubleday, 1992)

Reviewed by Sue Feder

Annette Meyers has been writing about Wall Street in her Smith and Wetzon series. She has now joined forces with her husband Martin to write about that same street when it actually had a wall on it. This is the first mystery I know of which is set in the days of New Amsterdam, Pieter Stuyvesant (who is not at all they way my teachers portrayed him) and the Dutch West India Company.

The story is set primarily around the few days preceding the English invasion of the town, when Schout (Sheriff) Tonneman finds himself dealing with several bodies, a wide selection of possible spies, and his own growing feelings for a Jewish woman.

The political intrigue, the burgeoning romance and, most of all, the history of an era largely ignored in mystery's quest for things Roman and medieval, are fascinating and sustain the story even through its weaker moments, which come about mostly as a result of Tonneman's drinking problem through much of the book. The pace picks up considerably when the Schout gives up liquor and starts getting on with life.

The most interesting character, though, is Racqel Mendoza, the young Jewish woman to whom Tonneman finds himself drawn. Her differences with the rest of the Jewish community poignantly portray the plight of a displaced and largely unwanted people even in the relatively enlightened Dutch society.

THE KINGSBRIDGE PLOT
Meyers, Maan

(Doubleday, 1993)

Reviewed by Sue Feder

Martin and Annette Meyers continue their saga of the Tonnemans, the Mendozas and New York City in the months preceding the Declaration of Independence . A monstrous killer is separating the heads from the bodies of young women, and Dr. John Tonneman, newly returned from seven years in London , is made coroner and given the case. He's a most interesting character: grieving over the recent death of his father; bewildered over the polarization of the city; torn between his love for his home and his newer love for England; juggling his personal loyalties to his Patriot friends and family, and his Royalist mentor; and confused over his growing feelings for the young assistant who ‘adopted' him almost immediately upon his return. The difficulties of life in a country on the brink of war is told in very personal terms even as traitors plot the death of General George Washington. This is a memorable follow-up to The Dutchman.

THE HIGH CONSTABLE
Meyers, Maan

(Doubleday, 1994).

Reviewed by Sue Feder

When Annette Meyers, half of Maan (the other half being her husband Martin), had a vision of a man who turned out to be the sheriff (schout) of New Amsterdam , the first book of a historical mystery trilogy uniquely set in old New York City was born. That book, The Dutchman, ended with the British invasion of the then Dutch colony and the departure of Schout Tonneman with his beautiful Sephardic Jew wife, Racqel Mendoza, to points north.

Several generations later the destinies of the Tonneman and Mendoza families again crossed, when young physician John Tonneman (Tonneman's and Racqel's great-great-grandson) met and married Mariana Mendoza, the great-great-grandniece of Racqel's first husband. The Kingsbridge Plot closed with the opening salvos of the Revolutionary War, and found John and Mariana planning their futures, and those of their children, with high hopes.

The High Constable opens more than thirty years later, when many of those hopes had been fulfilled, but more had been dashed. Their oldest son, in whom all of John's dreams for another generation of medicine had lain, fell victim to the yellow fever; their only surviving son had no interest in medicine, business, or anything other than drinking. His father so despairs of young Peter that he can't fully dispel suspicions that his son stole money and committed murder to cover it up. When the body of Peter's boss is discovered in a shallow grave, though, the horror of thirty years past comes up with it, in the form of a skull which had clearly been severed from its body. This two-fold mystery, identifying killers past and present, becomes the urgent business of both father and son as well as the means by which they will ultimately reconcile.

In 1808 New York was firmly in the grip of Thomas Jefferson's embargo against all international trade to and from American ports. The empty docks and warehouses reflect the empty bellies and lives of citizens who can't afford the goods smuggled in through Canada. Lawlessness is rampant; at night the streets are turned over to gangs of thugs. The police are lazy at best, corrupt at worst. Yet it is in these tumultuous times that Jacob Hays, the City's first and last High Constable, established -- according to many -- the foundation of the modern police department with the development of a systematic criminal investigation. More to the point of the story, he believes in young Peter when Peter's own father does not. Of course, it is in the best interest of his family to do so, since it is Hays' recently widowed cousin Charity with whom Peter is so besotted after saving her life. Ever-mindful of the possibility that Peter could yet be determined a thief, if not a killer, Hays nevertheless provides the young man with a way to set his life on a positive and meaningful path.

Mr. and Mrs. Meyers have once again collaborated to produce an altogether enjoyable story. Although some readers may suspect the solution to at least one of the two mysteries long before their resolutions, they will nevertheless find the scrupulous attention to detail creates an alive and vibrant city which is itself a main character of the story.

Fans of the series will be delighted to learn that the trilogy has become a quartet, at least. So many readers demanded to know what became of the Schout and his wife, that Maan Meyers will take up their pens once more to oblige. I would add, though, that I spotted at least one character in this current generation whom I'd like to see a few years on.

THE DUTCHMAN'S DILEMMA
Meyers, Maan

(Bantam, 1995)

Reviewed by Sue Feder

When New York was still New Amsterdam, Schout (Sheriff) Pieter Tonneman solved a series of brutal murders in Maan Meyers' The Dutchman. He also fell in love with Jewess Racqel Mendoza. Eleven years later, the English are firmly in charge and Pieter and Racqel have four children. All is not perfect in their lives -- Pieter's refusal to convert has left Racqel an outcast among outcasts, cut off from all but the bravest members of the small Jewish community. Pieter's non-religious feelings are nothing compared to his aversion to the covenant of Abraham (i.e.: circumcision), though, and despite his deep love for his wife he continues to refuse to convert. This ongoing dissension in the Tonneman household is put on hold when Pieter is forced to investigate the slaughter of a rized stallion, a gift from the king himself. A second animal is found dead in a manner very similar to Jewish kosher laws, and the ilemma of the title is that Pieter’s own investigation might bring the wrath of the good citizens upon his wife's people. This fourth book in what was originally meant to be only a trilogy is a case study in fear, suspicion and prejudice, as well as in love and faith.

THE HOUSE ON MULBERRY STREET
Meyers, Maan

(Bantam, 1996)

Reviewed by Sue Feder

This fifth book in the trilogy of New York City (it was a very successful trilogy), follows the descendants of New Amsterdam's first sheriff into the late nineteenth century, when Irish-Catholic police officer John Tonneman has no idea of his family's unusual history. The police department is rife with corruption, and a newly appointed commissioner -- who is more than what he seems -- is trying to change that. Meanwhile, a freelance journalist is murdered, and a talented apprentice photographer, who happens to be a beautiful Jewish woman, is determined to help solve the crime. Tonneman is almost as distressed about the crime as he is about his growing attraction to this entirely unsuitable woman -- and she cannot believe that she is falling in love with this pork-eating, church-going heathen. Martin and Annette Meyers once again take a delightful tour of historical New York City. They expose the terrible poverty and prejudices of the time without emotionally battering the reader and, best of all, have left themselves wide open for a sequel that will feature a wonderfully intelligent and independent woman confronting a new century head-on.

THE LUCIFER CONTRACT
Meyers, Maan

(Bantam, 1997)

Reviewed by Sue Feder

Just because New York City was north of the Mason-Dixon line doesn’t mean that there wasn’t plenty of action taking place there during the Civil War. Most famous were the Draft Riots of 1863. There were safe houses on the Underground Railroad. But there was also The Incendiary Plot, in which a group of Confederate soldiers were determined to burn the town to the ground on Election Day 1864. This generation’s Peter Tonneman is a journalist, but working with a clever barmaid and the Tonneman legacy in law enforcement, well, suffice it to say that New York City still stands. Although this is an interesting entry into the New York City historical series, it was the least satisfying to me. Part and parcel of what centers the other books in the series is the knowledge of Peter’s background, and how it shapes his actions in the story. I found this entry plot-driven rather than character-driven, and it didn’t hold up as well. It does give a fascinating look at a lesser known aspect of the Civil War era, however.