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Staff Pick: The Kopp Sisters Series

Constance Kopp didn't MEAN to become one of the first women in law enforcement. She was just living her quiet life in a crumbling farmhouse outside of Hackensack, New Jersey with her two sisters, Norma and the much-younger Fleurette, when an accident changed the course of her life. The Kopp Sisters novels by Amy Stewart tell the story, ripped from the headlines (of 1916, that is).

girlwaits.jpgIt starts with Girl Waits With Gun, in which we meet the Kopp sisters riding in a buggy on their way to town. They are struck by an automobile driven by Henry Kaufman, owner of a local silk mill. When the sisters ask for recompense for their demolished buggy, Kaufman refuses. Nevertheless, they persist, and Kaufman resorts to kidnapping threats, arson attempts, and drive-by shootings to scare them off. This kind of intimidation may work on most people, but the Kopp sisters are NOT most people, especially the 6-foot, 180 pound Constance. The local sheriff, a progressive sort of man, issues the Kopp sisters guns and recruits Constance to stand guard, the inspiration for the real-life newspaper headline "Girl Waits With Gun." Sheriff Heath is so impressed with Constance that he informally makes her a deputy.
The story continues in Lady Cop Makes Trouble. Sheriff Heath is facing pushback about hiring a woman deputy when a prisoner escapes under Constance's watch, further endangering her future in law enforcement. The last thing Constance wants is to go back to her previously sheltered existence. Determined to make up for her mistake and earn her badge, Constance doggedly pursues the con man, who went by the unlikely moniker Doctor Reverend Baron Herman Albert von Matthesius (yes, really!). Constance's exploits were followed closely by the press, as stories of her tackling men in the streets made nationwide headlines. 

midnightconfessions.jpgThe most recent book in the trilogy, Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions, finds Constance standing up for the rights of so-called "wayward" girls. Young women of the time were leaving home before marriage to work in factories and live in boarding houses, a development many in society disapproved of. If found guilty of "waywardness," a girl could be sent to the State Reformatory until the age of 21. Constance staunchly defends two young women who come under her charge, asserting that young women have every right to make their own way in the world. Her principles are challenged, however, when Fleurette, now 18, leaves home to travel with a vaudeville troupe without the permission or knowledge of Constance or Norma. 

These books are wonderful not only because they are based on a fascinating true story, but because the author truly brings these characters and their world to life. The dialogue between Constance and Norma is hilarious. The two sisters are very different, but it's often Norma's take on things that allows Constance to see things in a new light, revealing her blind spots in an investigation. Stewart's powers of description are wonderful - with a minimum of words you can perfectly picture the scene. In fact, my brain has cast Gwendoline Christie (the 6'3" actress currently portraying Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones) as Constance, and I've decided this series MUST be adapted for television. I may just get my wish, as the author has confirmed that the books have been optioned! Whether or not I'll get my dream cast remains to be seen. 

The Kopp Sisters novels are fun, thrilling without being overly violent, with a great touch of humor and humanity. Happy reading!

I may just pick up the first of this series and see how it goes. I usually stay away from series set in America, but these stories sound clever and if the writing is good, I'm ready to while away some time with a new bit of historic fun.
10/29/2017 2:23:56 PM

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