A Review of the KOPP SISTERS SERIES by Ann Stewart

The Kopp Sisters Series by Amy Stewart brings to life the fictionalized lives of three real life sisters. Thirty-five year old Constance is living on a farm outside Paterson, New Jersey, with her two younger sisters – Norma, the no nonsense sister, and Fleurette, the beautiful teenager who is really Constance’s illegitimate daughter. Constance was not the typical woman of the early 1900s. She didn’t want to stay at home and follow “womanly” pursuits. Instead, Constance would become the first female deputy in the United States.

He looked up and said, in a loud, plain voice, “She’s not a regular lady.”
— Girl Waits With Gun

GIRL WAITS WITH GUN (September 1st 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is the fictionalized version of real events that happened to Constance Kopp and her sisters during 1914-1915. It all started when the Kopps were on an outing in town when Henry Kaufman, a local businessman who runs one of the local silk dyeing plants, rams his automobile into the Kopp sisters’ wagon. Instead of just paying for the damages, Kaufman and his cronies begin to terrorize the Kopp sisters. They deal with kidnapping threats from the Black Hand, people shooting at her house, and an attempted arson. Constance enlists the help of Sheriff Robert Heath to help her stop Kaufman.

GIRL WAITS WITH GUN is a fun but serious read. It lacks suspense and thrills at times, but that can be expected considering the main storyline is based on real life events. Amy Stewart takes a true story with real people and fictionalizes it into an exciting novel. Henry Kaufman did threaten and harass the Kopp sisters. The Kopp sisters did get guns to protect themselves from Kaufman and his cronies. There was a legal battle between the Kopps and Kaufman. The story was a bit drawn out at times, but there are secondary storylines that help break up the main storyline. Stewart also fills in the backstory of the Kopp family.

Constance, Norma, and Fleurette are likable, compelling characters. They’re all quirky, independent women that clash against each other but always stick together. Stewart clearly did her research into the Kopp sisters – not much is known about them outside of newspaper reports and family stories that have been passed down. Stewart also did her research into time period and place in which the novel takes place. She really brings everything to life.

The older women didn’t let their lies and treachery deprive them of sleep. They took their secrets to bed like hot-water bottles and snored on top of them all night long.
— Lady Cop Makes Trouble

In LADY COP MAKES TROUBLE (September 6th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Constance Kopp and Sheriff Robert Heath are still trying to convince Board of Freeholders in Hackensack, New Jersey, to hire her as the first female deputy sheriff. In the meantime, Constance is working as the lady’s matron at the jail and doing what she can to help the sheriff with the female criminals. When Sheriff Heath takes Constance along to the hospital to deal with a German speaking con man, Constance accidently allows the criminal to escape. Sheriff Heath has no choice but to fire Constance. With her future – and the futures of her two younger sisters – in jeopardy, Constance takes it upon herself to track down Dr. von Matthesius. Constance’s investigation takes her all over northern New Jersey and into New York City as she tries to save her career and that of Sheriff Heath.

LADY COP MAKES TROUBLE is a strong follow up to GIRL WAITS WITH GUN. It is another fictionalized telling of real life events and people. The main storyline focuses on Constance’s hunt for Dr. von Matthesius, but there are secondary storylines following Sheriff Heath’s personal and professional lives, as well as Constance’s two sisters. Norma adds the solid voice of reason when Constance needs someone to talk to. She’s the backbone of the farm and keeps the family running. And Fleurette adds some comic relief to the novel with her antics and acting. There are also secondary storylines focusing on other cases that the real life Constance worked on during her career as a deputy. If the reader will learn anything from the Kopp Sisters series is that it was not easy to be a female policewoman in the early 1900s, but Constance Kopp is more than up for the challenge. The novel is very well written, and the attention to historical detail is outstanding.

Here was a woman who wore a revolver as easily as a string of pearls, commanded a powerful voice that could bark out an order, and possessed the disposition to go along with it.
— Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions

In MISS KOPP'S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS (September 5th 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Deputy Constance Kopp makes it her mission to help out the young women who are brought into the Hackensack jail on charges of waywardness and moral depravity. Constance uses her position of deputy to investigate the charges against these young women and free those that she can. The two women who Constance focuses on are Edith Heustis and Minnie Davis. After Edith left home to take a job in a munitions factory, her mother had her charged with waywardness as a way to bring her daughter home. Minnie also ran away from her home in upstate New York, but she took up residence with a young man who was not her husband and both were eventually arrested for it. But Constance's beliefs in the rights of women are put to the test when her younger sister (really her daughter) decides to run away from home and join a traveling vaudeville show as a seamstress.

MISS KOPP'S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS threw me for a loop in that it is written in third person from multiple perspectives instead of from Constance's first person perspective like the first two books in the series (GIRL WAITS WITH GUN and LADY COP MAKES TROUBLE). This novel is told mostly from Constance's perspective, but there are also scenes from Edith's and Minnie's perspectives. There are also scenes from Fleurette's perspective as she runs away from home. Had the novel been told solely from Constance's perspective like the first two books were, the reader would not have known the truth about what Fleurette was up to with the vaudeville act. the reader also wouldn't have known what was really going on with Edith and Minnie. While the novel works by showing the other perspectives - and is a better story for it - it was still a bit of a shock to read a Kopp Sisters novel that wasn't in Constance's straight-forward, first person voice. I did enjoy getting to see more of Fleurette's character. She is such a fun young woman. And. even though there are no scenes in Norma's perspective, more of her forceful personality comes out as well.

Like all the novels in the Kopp Sisters series, MISS KOPP'S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS is a portrait of life in the early 1900s. It really shows a spotlight on the lives of women - how they were treated and the "rules" they were forced to live by. A hundred years ago, parents could have their daughters sent to jail, reform school, or a mental institution because she left home to work or was dating a man that they didn't like. Constance's desire to help these women - especially in the face of all the opposition that she faces from both men and women - is refreshing and moving. Constance is a wonderful character who is ahead of her time.

The thief himself hadn’t looked back and had no idea who was in pursuit, which was a shame, as men often stumble and lose their resolve when confronted by a lady deputy.
— Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

In MISS KOPP JUST WON'T QUIT (September 11th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Constance Kopp's job as a deputy is on the line as she is dragged through the wringer during the campaign for the new sheriff. The political infighting is fierce, and Constance finds herself to be the target of a lot of the mudslinging. The one man who is running for the sheriff has made it clear that he doesn't like Constance and that he does not want her as a deputy if he is elected. The other man seems to understand the usefulness of a matron for the female prisoners, but he doesn't seem to like the idea of a female deputy. While fighting for her job, Constance is also fighting for justice for a woman named Anna. One of Constance's job as a deputy is to help transport prisoners to other jails, mental institutions, or anywhere else the judge sees fit to send people. Her latest transfer is Anna - a women whose husband is having her sent to the Morris Plains Mental Institute for the fourth time. Anna seems like a perfectly sane woman, and this prompts Constance to take a closer look at what is going on with Anna's husband and why he might want to have his wife sent away.

After a deviation to third person from multiple points of view in MISS KOPP'S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS, MISS KOPP JUST WON'T QUIT returns to Constance's first person perspective. Norma also gets to show more of herself in this novel as she takes it upon herself to help the Army in an area where I'm not sure the Army realized they needed help - in using pigeons to transport messages on the front lines in Europe. Norma's passion for her pigeons has intrigued me from the start, but it really comes to the forefront in this novel. As for Fleurette, she continues her acting and seamstress pursuits while she is forced to grow up and help out more with the upkeep of the home.

I am a huge fan of the Miss Kopp series. The three Kopp sisters are all highly entertaining characters as well as strong women. The historical accuracy of the novels is also outstanding. Not only does Amy Stewart focus on the fashions, foods, and headlines of the time period, she also brings to life the beliefs and morals of the era. The novels are a bit light on mysteries - so far Constance has not investigated any murders or serious crimes - but the cases that she does get involved in are all solid stories that follow real cases that the real-life Constance Kopp was a part of. I highly suggest the Kopp Sisters series to anyone who is interested in historical fiction about strong women trying to rise above the male-dominated world that they live in.