Cover image for Book Club kit : Girl waits with gun
Title:
Book Club kit : Girl waits with gun
Publication Information:
Boston : Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.
ISBN:
9780544800830
Physical Description:
9 books (410 pages) ; 21 cm + 1 discussion guide
Language:
English
Abstract:
Constance Kopp doesn?t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family -- and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.
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Book Club Kit BOOK CLUB 1 .CIRCNOTE. *****9 BOOKS, 1 DISCUSSION GUIDE*****
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Summary

Summary

A National Bestseller
A New York Times Editors' Choice
A September 2015 Indie Next Pick
A Publishers Marketplace Buzz Book of 2015, Fall/Winter
One of USA Today 's "New and Noteworthy"
One of New York Post 's "Must-Read" Books
One of Cosmopolitan 's "24 Books to Read this Fall"

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn't quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family -- and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.

"A smart, romping adventure, featuring some of the most memorable and powerful female characters I've seen in print for a long time. I loved every page as I followed the Kopp sisters through a too-good-to-be-true (but mostly true!) tale of violence, courage, stubbornness, and resourcefulness." -- Elizabeth Gilbert

Check out the brand-new Kopp sisters adventure Lady Copy Makes Trouble available now!


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Hardened criminals are no match for pistol-packing spinster Constance Kopp and her redoubtable sisters in this hilarious and exciting period drama by bestseller Stewart (The Drunken Botanist). This is an elegant tale of suspense, mystery, and wry humor set in 1914 in Paterson, N.J. A crash between the Kopp sisters' horse and buggy and an automobile driven by arrogant factory owner Henry Kaufman begins a disturbing cycle of menacing behavior: Kaufman refuses to pay for the buggy damage, angry and humiliated in an embarrassing confrontation with a tall, imposing, and formidable woman. Intimidation and threats of violence follow Constance's every effort to make Kaufman pay, finally resulting in her appeal to the Bergen County Sheriff to help her collect. Sheriff Robert Heath has been itching to lock up Kaufman and his thuggish pals, and sees this as an excellent opportunity to rid Paterson of the pack of criminals. The Kopp sisters live alone on a remote farm and are taunted, burglarized, and shot at by crooks of the Black Hand gang as retaliation for involving the police and causing trouble for Kaufman. But when Constance starts to pack a revolver and doesn't hesitate to shoot back, the game changes drastically. A surprising Kopp family secret, a kidnapped baby, and other twists consistently ratchet up the stakes throughout, resulting in an exhilarating yarn. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In 1914, on a New Jersey farm, the three Kopp sisters the pugnacious-yet-attractive, six-foot-tall Constance; the flibbertigibbet youngest, Fleurette; and the droll pigeon-keeper, Norma defy convention by living alone after their mother dies. Self-sufficient and reclusive, Constance and Norma shelter themselves and their little sister from the world until a terrible incident forces them into the limelight. When silk baron Henry Kaufman rams and overturns their buggy with his motorcar, events conspire against the Kopp girls' continued independence. In fact, Kaufman's frightening threats and abuse of his workers put Constance on high alert: she keeps her sisters corralled indoors, fires shots at nighttime intruders, and works with the sheriff to personally bring down the merchant and his thugs. A sheer delight to read and based on actual events, this debut historical mystery packs the unexpected, the unconventional, and a serendipitous humor into every chapter. Details from the historical record are accurately portrayed by villains and good guys alike, and readers will cross their fingers for the further adventures of Constance and Sheriff Heath. For fans of the Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood, and the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Laurie R. King.--Baker, Jen Copyright 2015 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

AMY STEWART'S FIRST NOVEL, "Girl Waits With Gun," follows her award-winning nonfiction - "The Drunken Botanist," itself a dram of good cheer after her previous, excellently informative doses of bad news in the shape of rampant earthworms ("The Earth Moved"), poisonous bouquets ("Flower Confidential"), toxic vegetation ("Wicked Plants") and lethal insects ("Wicked Bugs"). Her partiality for villainy clearly persists, for her novel begins with an evil deed, an actual one, perpetrated in the summer of 1914, in Paterson, N.J. Henry Kaufman, the ne'er-do-well son of a wealthy silk-dyeing plant owner, smashed his automobile into the horsedrawn buggy occupied by three sisters, Constance, Norma and Fleurette Kopp. The buggy was shattered and the women were hurled to the ground. Kaufman, accompanied by a carful of lowlifes, refused to take responsibility. Constance demanded $50 recompense, whereupon Kaufman and his coterie of goons set about a campaign of intimidation and extortion. Stewart has spun a fine, historically astute novel out of all this, adding a subplot and deepening the characters. She gives the narration to Constance, the eldest sister, a tall, burly 35-year-old woman with a down-to-earth manner. ("Mr. Hopper was breathing in that way that large men breathed, as if fueled by a boiler room instead of a pair of lungs.") She and her sisters have been living on a farm outside Paterson for years, having retreated from Brooklyn with their mother after an untoward, life-altering event, only gradually revealed. Now dead, their mother, abandoned years ago by her drunken husband, distrusted and feared everything outside their domestic fastness. Norma, the second eldest, shares her mother's dim view of the world, raises pigeons and reads half a dozen newspapers a day, chiefly, it seems, for lurid stories of crime and disaster. She believes "self-propelled vehicles to be a path to lawlessness and social chaos" - a view pretty much borne out by events. The youngest Kopp, Fleurette, is a high-spirited 16-year-old, an accomplished needle-woman, would-be actress and spinner of tall tales. The sisters' personalities flower under Stewart's pen, contributing happy notes of comedy to a terrifying situation. After Constance repeatedly presses Kaufman for the money to repair the buggy, he and his gang send messages - via bricks tossed through the farmhouse windows - threatening to shoot the Kopps, burn them and abduct Fleurette and sell her into "white slavery." Further destruction, harassment, even gun shots, follow, topped off by an attempt to extort $1,000. Determined to see justice, Constance finds an ally in the county sheriff, a decent man disgusted by the brutality with which a silk workers' strike had been suppressed the year before. While other police officers hang back, afraid of the "silk men," he's all action, supplying the Kopps with a couple of revolvers. Along the way, Constance finds her calling as sleuth and champion of the weak, drawn to the plight of another of Kaufman's victims, Lucy Blake. The woman, a silk worker, has had a child by him, now missing, most likely abducted at the man's behest. Stewart integrates the beliefs and conditions of a vanished way of life into the story, enriching it without playing the intrusive docent. Transportation, domestic arrangements, dress, food, the place of women and the lot of the worker are neatly stitched in, as are the isolation of the country and the public glare of the city, and, most entertainingly, sensational, inaccurate newspaper accounts of events. And then there is Constance: Sequestered for years in the country and cowed by life, she develops believably into a woman who comes into herself, discovering powers long smothered under shame and resignation. I, for one, would like to see her return to wield them again in further installments. KATHERINE A. POWERS, who received the 2013 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle, is the editor of "Suitable Accommodations. An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J.F. Powers, 1942-1963."


Kirkus Review

Better known for her nonfiction (The Drunken Botanist, 2013, etc.), Stewart crafts a solid, absorbing novel based on real-life eventsthough they're unusual enough to seem invented. Constance Kopp and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, are driving into Paterson, New Jersey, on a summer day in 1914 when a motor car rams them, splintering their buggy and mildly injuring all three women and their horse. Drunken lout Henry Kaufman thinks that owning a local silk manufacturer entitles him to ignore Constance's reasonable request that he pay for the damages, but he's misjudged his opponent. As Constance's first-person narrative unfolds, we see that she's a bold woman unafraid to defy convention, determined to see justice done and to protect her family; Fleurette, we learn, is actually Constance's out-of-wedlock baby, raised as a late-life sibling by her mother. When Henry and his thuggish friends start turning up at the Kopps' isolated farm, firing guns and sending bricks through the window bearing letters threatening all the sisters but paying particular attention to Fleurette, our tough-minded heroine is not about to be intimidated. She swears out a complaint against Henry, backed up by Sheriff Robert Heath, himself something of a rule-breaker. More threats ensue, as does the complicating factor of a young woman employed at the silk factory who bore Henry's baby and is convinced he had a hand in the child's mysterious disappearance. Stewart deftly tangles and then unwinds a complicated plot with nice period detail, and it's good to see Henry finally get his comeuppance, but the real interest here is rooting for Constance as she refuses to be patronized or reduced to a dependent of her well-meaning brother, who thinks three unmarried women should naturally be living with a male protector. A final scene offers well-deserved new horizons for Constance and hints a series may be in the works. More adventures involving gutsy Constance, quietly determined Sheriff Heath, and a lively cast of supporting characters would be most welcome. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

This lively mystery is based on fact: the corruption found in clothing manufacturing at the beginning of the 20th century and that protagonist Constance Kopp was America's first female deputy sheriff. In 1914, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp's buggy is struck by an automobile driven by silk manufacturer Henry Kaufman. When he refuses to pay damages, the feisty Constance challenges him. Soon, Henry's thugs threaten the Kopp women at their remote New Jersey farm. Undaunted, Constance goes to the police, who are amused by the tall, confident woman. However, wise, fair, and kind Sheriff Bob Heath sees the wrong in what's happening to the family and asks Constance to help catch the men. The trial after the accident is compelling, offering a fascinating look at how different-and yet similar-legal doings are today. Narrator Christina Moore skillfully portrays characters of all ages and classes and splendidly conveys humor and fear, but she is best demonstrating the warm relationships among the Kopp women. Verdict The clever conclusion will have listeners eagerly anticipating a sequel. ["Historical fiction fans and followers of Rhys Bowen's "Molly Murphy" mysteries and Victoria Thompson's "Gaslight Mystery" series will delight in the eccentric and feisty Kopp women": LJ 6/15/15 starred review of the Houghton Harcourt hc.]-Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 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. Against my better judgment I allowed Fleurette to drive. Norma was reading to us from the newspaper as she always did. "'Man's Trousers Cause Death,' " Norma called out. "It doesn't say that." Fleurette snorted and turned around to get a look at the paper. The reins slid out of her hands. "It does," Norma said. "It says that a Teamster was in the habit of hanging his trousers over the gas jet at night but, being under the influence of liquor, didn't notice that the trousers smothered the flame." "Then he died of gas poisoning, not of trousers." "Well, the trousers --" The low, goosey cry of a horn interrupted Norma. I turned just in time to see a black motor car barreling toward us, tearing down Hamilton and picking up speed as it crossed the intersection. Fleurette jumped up on the footboard to wave the driver off. "Get down!" I shouted, but it was too late. The automobile hit us broadside, its brakes shrieking. The sound of our buggy shattering was like a firecracker going off in our ears. We tumbled over in a mess of splintered wood and bent metal. Our harness mare, Dolley, faltered and went down with us. She let out a high scream, the likes of which I had never heard from a horse. Something heavy pinned my shoulder. I reached around and found it was Norma's foot. "You're standing on me!" "I am not. I can't even see you," Norma said. Our wagon rocked back and forth as the motor car reversed its engine and broke free of the wreckage. I was trapped under the overturned rear seat. It was as dark as a coffin, but there was a dim shape below me that I believed to be Fleurette's arm. I didn't dare move for fear of crushing her. From the clamor around us, I gathered that someone was trying to rock the wagon and get it upright. "Don't!" I yelled. "My sister's under the wheel." If the wheel started to turn, she'd be caught up in it. A pair of arms the size of tree branches reached into the rubble and got hold of Norma. "Take your hands off me!" she shouted. "He's trying to get you out," I called. With a grunt, she accepted the man's help. Norma hated to be manhandled. Once she was free, I climbed out behind her. The man attached to the enormous arms wore an apron covered in blood. For one terrible second, I thought it was ours, then I realized he was a butcher at the meat counter across the street. He wasn't the only one who had come running out when the automobile hit us. We were surrounded by store clerks, locksmiths, grocers, delivery boys, shoppers -- in fact, most of the stores on Market Street had emptied, their occupants drawn to the spectacle we were now providing. Most of them watched from the sidewalk, but a sizable contingent surrounded the motor car, preventing its escape. The butcher and a couple of men from the print shop, their hands black with ink, helped us raise the wagon just enough to allow Fleurette to slide clear of the wheel. As we lifted the broken panels off her, Fleurette stared up at us with wild dark eyes. She wore a dress sheathed in pink taffeta. Against the dusty road she looked like a trampled bed of roses. "Don't move," I whispered, bending over her, but she got her arms underneath herself and sat up. "No, no, no," said one of the printers. "We'll call for a doctor." I looked up at the men standing in a circle around us. "She'll be fine," I said, sliding a hand over her ankle. "Go on." Some of those men looked a little too eager to help with the examination of Fleurette's legs. They shuffled off to help two livery drivers, who had disembarked from their own wagons to tend to our mare. They freed her from the harness and she struggled to stand. The poor creature groaned and tossed her head and blew steam from her nostrils. The drivers fed her something from their pockets and that seemed to settle her. I gave Fleurette's calf a squeeze. She howled and jerked away from me. "Is it broken?" she asked. I couldn't say. "Try to move it." She screwed her face into a knot, held her breath, and gingerly bent one leg and then the other. When she was finished she let her breath go all at once and looked up at me, panting. "That's good," I said. "Now move your ankles and your toes." We both looked down at her feet. She was wearing the most ridiculous white calfskin boots with pink ribbons for laces. "Are they all right?" she asked. I put my hand on her back to steady her. "Just try to move them. First your ankle." "I meant the boots." That's when I knew Fleurette would survive. I unlaced the boots and promised to look after them. A much larger crowd had gathered, and Fleurette wiggled her pale-stockinged toes for her new audience. "You'll have quite a bruise tomorrow, miss," said a lady behind us. The seat that had trapped me a few moments ago was resting on the ground. I helped Fleurette into it and took another look at her legs. Her stockings were torn and she was scratched and bruised, but not broken to bits as I'd feared. I offered my handkerchief to press against one long and shallow cut along her ankle, but she'd already lost interest in her own injuries. "Look at Norma," she whispered with a wicked little smile. My sister had planted herself directly in the path of the motor car to prevent the men from driving away. She did make a comical sight, a small but stocky figure in her split riding skirt of drab cotton. Norma had the broad Slavic face and thick nose of our father and our mother's sour disposition. Her mouth was set in a permanent frown and she looked on everyone with suspicion. She stared down the driver of the motor car with the kind of flat-footed resolve that came naturally to her in times of calamity. The automobilist was a short but solidly built young man who had an overfed look about him, hinting at a privileged life. He would have been handsome if not for an indolent and spoiled aspect about his eyes and the tough set of his mouth, which suggested he was accustomed to getting his way. His face was puffy and red from the heat, but also, I suspected, from a habit of putting away a quart of beer at breakfast and a bottle of wine at night. He was dressed exceedingly well, in striped linen trousers, a silk waistcoat with polished brass buttons, and a tie as red as the blood seeping through Fleurette's stockings. His companions tumbled out of the car and gathered around him as if standing guard. They wore the plain broadcloth suits of working men and carried themselves like rats who weren't accustomed to being spotted in the daylight. Each of them was unkempt and unshaven, and a few kept their hands in their pockets in a manner that suggested they might be reaching for their knives. I couldn't imagine where this gang of ruffians had been off to in such a hurry, but I was already beginning to regret that we had been the ones to get in their way. Excerpted from Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.