Books

by Amy Stewart
Houghton Mifflin, September 2015, $27

Don’t mess with the Misses Kopp! Independent and irrepressible, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp are Jersey girls (circa 1914) who tangle with a local bad boy and more than hold their own. That this crime novel is based on long-forgotten but true events that once attracted national attention makes their story even more tantalizing.

Trouble begins when wealthy factory owner Henry Kaufman crashes his motorcar into the Kopps’ horse carriage as the young countrywomen run errands in the nearby city of Paterson, New Jersey. Bruised but unbowed, Constance is determined that Kaufman will pay the $50 to fix their busted buggy. Instead, he and his thuggish buddies stalk them at their isolated farmhouse and toss bricks, wrapped in menacing messages, through the windows.

Aided by the county sheriff, Constance presses charges against the assailants. But soon, all three Kopps are brandishing revolvers, as Kaufman and company escalate their months-long campaign of intimidation to gunshots in the night, attempted arson, kidnapping threats, and blackmail. Still, he has underestimated them all—especially Constance. The oldest and tallest (at nearly six feet), she takes the biggest risks to protect her family, as well as help one of the factory workers find her mysteriously missing child, while guarding a secret of her own.

Amy Stewart brings her first fiction to full bloom with colorful characters and period background ripped from the headlines (literally—the novel’s title comes from a Philadelphia Sun article on Constance’s meetup with the blackmailer). Through a fictional subplot, Stewart also explores the plight of silk mill laborers, particularly working mothers, during the 1913 Paterson strike, when the walkout of 25,000 workers shut down more than 300 factories. The historical details engage without ever feeling forced, and the hardships faced by three strong-willed, self-sufficient Kopp women are tempered by their good-humored banter. Even better, Constance’s real-life fate, revealed at the very end, brings hope that there will be more adventures to come featuring the courageous Kopps.

Cheryl Solimini

stewartgirlwaitswithgunDon’t mess with the Misses Kopp! Independent and irrepressible, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp are Jersey girls (circa 1914) who tangle with a local bad boy and more than hold their own.

Teri Duerr
5041
Stewart
September 2015
girl-waits-with-gun
27
Houghton Mifflin

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