would you think of three sisters who lived alone on an isolated farm at
a time when women were supposed to marry young and have a man to
protect them? If you think they might cave under threats and violence,
think again. Constance Kopp is willing and able to do what it takes to
Our troubles began in the summer of 1914, the year I turned thirty-five. The Archduke of Austria had just been assassinated, the Mexicans were revolting, and absolutely nothing was happening at our house, which explains why all three of us were riding to Paterson on the most trivial of errands. Never had a larger committee been convened to make a decision about the purchase of mustard powder and the replacement of a claw hammer whose handle had split from age and misuse.—Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, p. 1)
- Setting: 1914; Paterson, New Jersey; surrounding towns and countryside
- Circumstances: When a rich silk merchant, Henry Kaufman, crashes his car into the Kopp sisters' buggy, he refuses to make restitution. Little does he know that bullying and violence will not work on these strong women. The ensuing feud makes the newspapers and draws the attention of the law.
- Characters: Constance, the eldest sister who tells the story; Norma, the middle sister; Fleurette, the much younger sister; Henry Kaufman, the silk merchant; Robert Heath, the sheriff; various townsfolk, women at the silk factory, a Kopp brother, and gangsters.
- Genre: historical mystery
- Themes: feminism, independent women, family secrets, fairness
- Real life! Stewart wrote her novel based on a true story, which she came across when researching another book. Constance Kopp was one of the first women detectives and worked in conjunction with Sheriff Heath to catch Kaufman and his band of thugs. The incident involved shoot outs, threats, blackmail, and a sting operation.
- Notes on the writing: I've read only the beginning of the book, but I've gotten far enough along to feel confident about Stewart's style and her sense of humor. This is sassy, action-packed, and filled with amazing period details and fantastic characters.
- Some fun things to know: The title of the book comes from a real-life headline about the Kopps. Stewart clothed the sisters and furnished their house with items available in the 1908 Sears catalog. I learned these facts and more from a great NPR interview (click the link to read it yourself). You can see photos of the characters at Amy Stewart's website.
- Bonus! At BEA this past May, Amy Stewart was handing out cards with the Girl Waits with Gun "signature cocktail." It's too fun to keep to myself, so I embedded the PDF here. Click the image to enlarge it or head on over to Stewart's website to download your own copy.