Pub Day Repost: Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart

Miss Kopp's Midnight ConfessionsMiss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions

by Amy Stewart
Series: The Kopp Sisters, #3
eARC, 384 pg.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017
Read: August 15 – 16, 2017

Without meaning to slight Girl Waits with Gun or Lady Cop makes Trouble, this is the best constructed novel in this series. There’s a unity of theme, stories that complement each other, and a level of (honest) introspection from the characters that we haven’t seen before. That said, I don’t think I enjoyed it nearly as much as I did the others. So it’s a little bit of a trade-off.

We are treated to three stories of young women, one sixteen year-old and two eighteen year-olds, who leave home for various reasons. They all want something more than they can have at home — meaning, a job, excitement, freedom, and maybe something more. One girl did everything right, but sill was arrested for waywardness. One was pretty foolish, and did some illegal things, but was really arrested for the foolish mistake. The third was Constance’s little sister, Fleurette. Constance went to bat for all three — interceding with the law (when applicable), with family (when she could), trying to give them the ability to live the life they wanted to — and each of them pressed Constance’s ability, job and standing as she did so.

While this is going on, Constance is making headlines across the nation — making her both a distraction to her friend the Sheriff, as well as a voice for social change. I know she regrets the former, and I’m not convinced she relishes the latter. If she had her druthers, I think Constance would prefer just to do her job and be left alone. But she is learning how to use her notoriety — or at least her relationship with members of The Press — to help her accomplish her goals.

Constance begins to come to terms with some very unfortunate realities of her life, and begins to grasp what the future may hold for her, both professionally and personally. In some way (I think), she thought she could keep the life she had and just add on her job on top of it. But between her fame, the time she spends away from the home, Fleurette’s aging and getting ready to leave the nest, and everything else going on around the sisters, that’s no longer possible. Her old life is gone, and the new one is too in flux for her to get a handle on it. Assuming that there are more Kopp Sister novels to come, watching Constance figure out what her life will be — and hopefully she gets a hand in shaping it — will be the key to the series as it progresses.

On the whole, this one didn’t work as well for me as the previous books did. But several of the individual elements I found compelling and wanted more of — I wish we got more of the story about Edna Heustis (I don’t need to know what happened over the rest of her life, I just want a clearer picture of the next few months) or her roommate. I’d have liked more interaction between Constance and her boss — we just didn’t get enough of them — and an honest conversation about the future would’ve been nice. I did think the ending of the Fleurette story was handled perfectly — I don’t think I’d change a thing about that whole storyline, really. Still, this novel was somehow less than the sum of its parts, for me — but I can easily see where I’ll be in the minority for thinking that. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, I just should’ve enjoyed it more.

Strong characters, some strong themes (ones you usually don’t see in Detective fiction), and a tumultuous time period (for several reasons) combine to deliver another satisfying entry in this series that’ll please existing fans and probably pick up a few more.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

3.5 Stars

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Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart

Miss Kopp's Midnight ConfessionsMiss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions

by Amy Stewart
Series: The Kopp Sisters, #3

eARC, 384 pg.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

Read: August 15 – 16, 2017


Without meaning to slight Girl Waits with Gun or Lady Cop makes Trouble, this is the best constructed novel in this series. There’s a unity of theme, stories that complement each other, and a level of (honest) introspection from the characters that we haven’t seen before. That said, I don’t think I enjoyed it nearly as much as I did the others. So it’s a little bit of a trade-off.

We are treated to three stories of young women, one sixteen year-old and two eighteen year-olds, who leave home for various reasons. They all want something more than they can have at home — meaning, a job, excitement, freedom, and maybe something more. One girl did everything right, but sill was arrested for waywardness. One was pretty foolish, and did some illegal things, but was really arrested for the foolish mistake. The third was Constance’s little sister, Fleurette. Constance went to bat for all three — interceding with the law (when applicable), with family (when she could), trying to give them the ability to live the life they wanted to — and each of them pressed Constance’s ability, job and standing as she did so.

While this is going on, Constance is making headlines across the nation — making her both a distraction to her friend the Sheriff, as well as a voice for social change. I know she regrets the former, and I’m not convinced she relishes the latter. If she had her druthers, I think Constance would prefer just to do her job and be left alone. But she is learning how to use her notoriety — or at least her relationship with members of The Press — to help her accomplish her goals.

Constance begins to come to terms with some very unfortunate realities of her life, and begins to grasp what the future may hold for her, both professionally and personally. In some way (I think), she thought she could keep the life she had and just add on her job on top of it. But between her fame, the time she spends away from the home, Fleurette’s aging and getting ready to leave the nest, and everything else going on around the sisters, that’s no longer possible. Her old life is gone, and the new one is too in flux for her to get a handle on it. Assuming that there are more Kopp Sister novels to come, watching Constance figure out what her life will be — and hopefully she gets a hand in shaping it — will be the key to the series as it progresses.

On the whole, this one didn’t work as well for me as the previous books did. But several of the individual elements I found compelling and wanted more of — I wish we got more of the story about Edna Heustis (I don’t need to know what happened over the rest of her life, I just want a clearer picture of the next few months) or her roommate. I’d have liked more interaction between Constance and her boss — we just didn’t get enough of them — and an honest conversation about the future would’ve been nice. I did think the ending of the Fleurette story was handled perfectly — I don’t think I’d change a thing about that whole storyline, really. Still, this novel was somehow less than the sum of its parts, for me — but I can easily see where I’ll be in the minority for thinking that. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, I just should’ve enjoyed it more.

Strong characters, some strong themes (ones you usually don’t see in Detective fiction), and a tumultuous time period (for several reasons) combine to deliver another satisfying entry in this series that’ll please existing fans and probably pick up a few more.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

3.5 Stars

The Best Novels I Read in 2016

Yeah, I should’ve done this earlier, but I just needed a break from 2016 for a couple of days. Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1.

I truly enjoyed all but a couple of books this year (at least a little bit), but narrowing the list down to those in this post was a little easier than I expected (‘tho there’s a couple of books I do feel bad about ignoring). I stand by my initial ratings, there are some in the 5-Star group that aren’t as good as some of the 4 and 4½ books, although for whatever reason, I ranked them higher (entertainment value, sentimental value…liked the ending better…etc.). Anyway, I came up with a list I think I can live with.

(in alphabetical order by author)

Morning StarMorning Star

by Pierce Brown
My original post
I was a little surprised (but not really) today to see that every book in the trilogy made my year-end Best-Of list — so it makes sense that this one occupies a space. But it’s more than that, this book was an exciting emotional wringer that ended the trilogy in a perfect way. I can’t recommend this one enough (but only for those who’ve read the first two). When I was informed a month ago that there was going to be a follow-up series? I let out a whoop, thankfully none of my family noticed, so I don’t have to feel too silly.
5 Stars

A Star-Reckoner's LotA Star-Reckoner’s Lot

by Darrell Drake
My original post
I’m afraid if I start talking about this one that I’ll spill a few hundred words. Let me just slightly modify something I already wrote and spare us all the effort (that could be better spent actually reading these books). I’m afraid I’ll overuse the word imaginative if I tried to describe what Drake has done here in the depth I want to in this book about pre-Islamic Iran. You haven’t read a fantasy novel like this one before — almost certainly, anyway — but you should.
4 1/2 Stars

Blood of the EarthBlood of the Earth

by Faith Hunter
My original post
This probably should be a dual entry with Blood of the Earth and Curse on the Land, but that felt like cheating. Between the two, I thought that this was a slightly better work, so it got the spot. While remaining true to the Jane Yellowrock world that this springs from, Hunter has created a fantastic character, new type of magic, and basis of a series. I love these characters already (well, except for those I wasn’t crazy about previously) and can’t wait for a return trip.
4 1/2 Stars

BurnedBurned

by Benedict Jacka
My original post
I’m just going to quote myself here: I’ve seen people call this the Changes of the Alex Verus series — and it absolutely is. I’d also call it the Staked in terms with the protagonists coming to grips with the effects that his being in the lives of his nearest and dearest has on their life, and what that means for his future involvement with them. Which is not to say that Jacka’s latest feels anything like Butcher’s or Hearne’s books — it feels like Verus just turned up half a notch. It’s just such a great read — it grabs you on page 2 and drags you along wherever it wants to take you right up until the “He is not actually doing this” moment — which are followed by a couple more of them.
5 Stars

Fate BallFate Ball

by Adam W. Jones
My original post
Since the Spring when I read this, I periodically reminded myself to keep this in mind for my Top 10, I was that afraid I’d forget this quiet book. It’s not a perfect novel, there are real problems with it — but it was really effective. I fell for Ava, just the way Able did — not as hard (and only in a way that my wife wouldn’t mind) — but just as truly. This one worked about as well as any author could hope one would.
4 1/2 Stars

All Our Wrong TodaysAll Our Wrong Todays

by Elan Mastai
My original post
My all-time favorite time-travel novel, just a fun read, too. I will over-hype this one if I’m not careful. So, so good.
5 Stars

The Summer that Melted EverythingThe Summer that Melted Everything

by Tiffany McDaniel
My original post
I’m not sure what I can say about this book that others haven’t — this trip into a magical realism version of the 1980’s Mid-West will get you on every level — it’s entertaining, it’s thought-provoking, the language is gorgeous, the characters are flawed in all the right ways. I wish this was getting the attention (and sales!) that it deserves — I really hope its audience finds it.
5 Stars

Every Heart a DoorwayEvery Heart a Doorway

by Seanan McGuire
My original post
Here’s a book that doesn’t have to worry about attention or audience, it has one — and it’s probably growing. It deserves it. Short, sweet (and not-sweet) and to the point. I may have to buy a two copies of the sequel so I don’t have to fight my daughter for it when it’s released.
5 Stars

Lady Cop Makes TroubleLady Cop Makes Trouble

by Amy Stewart
My original post
Stewart took the really good historical crime novel she wrote last year and built on that foundation one that’s far more entertaining without sacrificing anything that had come before. We’ll be reading about the Kopp sisters for a while, I think.
4 Stars

Genrenauts: The Complete Season One CollectionGenrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection

by Michael R. Underwood
My original post
Yeah, here I am again, flogging Underwood’s Genrenaut stories — whether in individual novellas, audiobooks, or in this collection — you need to get your hands on this series about story specialists who travel to alternate dimensions where stories are real and what happens in them impacts our world — Underwood has a special alchemy of Leverage + The Librarians + Quantum Leap + Thursday Next going on here, and I love it.
5 Stars

There were a few that almost made the list — almost all of them did make the Top 10 for at least a minute, actually. I toyed with a Top 17 in 2016 but that seemed stupid — and I’ve always done 10, I’m going to stick with it. But man — these were all close, and arguably better than some of those on my list. Anyway here they are: What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman (my original post), Children of the Different by SC Flynn (my original post), Thursday 1:17 p.m. by Michael Landweber (my original post), We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman (my original post), A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl (my original post), and Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja (my original post).

I hope your 2016 reads were as good as these.

Pub Day Repost: Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart

Lady Cop Makes TroubleLady Cop Makes Trouble

by Amy Stewart
Series: The Kopp Sisters, #2
eARC, 320 pg.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Read: August 6 – 8, 2016

Miss Constance Kopp, who once hid behind a tree near her home in Wyckoff, N.J., for five hours waiting to get a shot at a gang of Black Handers who had annoyed her, is now a Deputy Sheriff of Bergen County, N.J., and a terror to evildoers. — New York Press, December 20, 1915

The novel’s epigraph tells you pretty much everything you need to know. In the previous book, Girl Waits with Gun, Constance goes to extremes to protect her family from criminals, now she’s moved on to being an official “terror to evildoers.”

Constance begins the novel as a Deputy Sheriff, but political pressure removes her (temporarily she’s assured) and she’s demoted to matron of the women’s jail. She’d been serving in that capacity anyway, but now that’s all she does. She notes, and is probably on to something, that the police are far more willing to arrest women knowing there;s a matron at the jail to watch over them than they were when it was just men. That’s probably not the kind of women’s equality that people hoped for, but I guess you take what you can get. During this time, Constance makes a horrible blunder — one that jeopardizes her career as well as that of Sheriff Heath.

Bound and determined to keep her job (and for her friend and boss to keep his), as well as to see justice done, Constance ignores orders, protocol and (what some would consider) good sense and sets off to correct her error. Doing so will take her out of her comfort zone and into a long investigation that will remind her just what kind of evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Reading about Constance — and some of the professional women she meets in NYC — reminds me of the book I recently read about Nelly Bly and the efforts of female journalists to be taken seriously, and given the opportunities to do more than society page work. Another female law enforcement officer that Constance meets in the opening pages isn’t allowed to do much at all in her role — far less than Constance can (and does). Now this other woman seems content in that, even scandalized at Constance manhandling a suspect, but that doesn’t change the fact that times are changing, and it’s determined women like Constance and Nelly Bly that are going to make them change.

The friendship — and mutual respect — between Constance and Sheriff Heath continues to bloom, and be misunderstood by everyone (with the possible exception of Norma) from Mrs. Heath to juvenile delinquents. But really, there are no romantic sparks (and I expect Stewart will keep things that way — as did history, it seems). I do wish that more people in Bergen County — particularly some of her coworkers (even just one) — most people outside of her home (see especially almost everyone in New York) seem to be encouraging/accepting of a female Deputy.

Norma and Fleurette aren’t as important to the progress of the plot in the sequel — Norma’s stubborn, no-nonsense streak keeps Constance moving when she needs it. Fleurette’s naïveté and desire for a different life fuel Constance’s desire to make the world a better place — at least their corner of it — and to keep the money rolling in. Watching the Sheriff Heath interact with these ladies is a hoot.

I’m not sure it stacks up to its predecessor as a novel — it’s not as deep, the story’s really straightforward, and you might argue the ending is a bit rushed. But, it’s a whole lot more fun to read. Having established the world so effectively in the first book, Stewart can just let her characters live in it. This is a solid crime novel, elevated by the historical circumstances and actual history that undergirds it. Stewart really won me over with this one, I hope we have many more installments to come.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

—–

4 Stars

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart

(slightly modified to address something I forgot earlier)

Lady Cop Makes TroubleLady Cop Makes Trouble

by Amy Stewart
Series: The Kopp Sisters, #2

eARC, 320 pg.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

Read: August 6 – 8, 2016

Miss Constance Kopp, who once hid behind a tree near her home in Wyckoff, N.J., for five hours waiting to get a shot at a gang of Black Handers who had annoyed her, is now a Deputy Sheriff of Bergen County, N.J., and a terror to evildoers. — New York Press, December 20, 1915

The novel’s epigraph tells you pretty much everything you need to know. In the previous book, Girl Waits with Gun, Constance goes to extremes to protect her family from criminals, now she’s moved on to being an official “terror to evildoers.”

Constance begins the novel as a Deputy Sheriff, but political pressure removes her (temporarily she’s assured) and she’s demoted to matron of the women’s jail. She’d been serving in that capacity anyway, but now that’s all she does. She notes, and is probably on to something, that the police are far more willing to arrest women knowing there;s a matron at the jail to watch over them than they were when it was just men. That’s probably not the kind of women’s equality that people hoped for, but I guess you take what you can get. During this time, Constance makes a horrible blunder — one that jeopardizes her career as well as that of Sheriff Heath.

Bound and determined to keep her job (and for her friend and boss to keep his), as well as to see justice done, Constance ignores orders, protocol and (what some would consider) good sense and sets off to correct her error. Doing so will take her out of her comfort zone and into a long investigation that will remind her just what kind of evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Reading about Constance — and some of the professional women she meets in NYC — reminds me of the book I recently read about Nelly Bly and the efforts of female journalists to be taken seriously, and given the opportunities to do more than society page work. Another female law enforcement officer that Constance meets in the opening pages isn’t allowed to do much at all in her role — far less than Constance can (and does). Now this other woman seems content in that, even scandalized at Constance manhandling a suspect, but that doesn’t change the fact that times are changing, and it’s determined women like Constance and Nelly Bly that are going to make them change.

The friendship — and mutual respect — between Constance and Sheriff Heath continues to bloom, and be misunderstood by everyone (with the possible exception of Norma) from Mrs. Heath to juvenile delinquents. But really, there are no romantic sparks (and I expect Stewart will keep things that way — as did history, it seems). I do wish that more people in Bergen County — particularly some of her coworkers (even just one) — most people outside of her home (see especially almost everyone in New York) seem to be encouraging/accepting of a female Deputy.

Norma and Fleurette aren’t as important to the progress of the plot in the sequel — Norma’s stubborn, no-nonsense streak keeps Constance moving when she needs it. Fleurette’s naïveté and desire for a different life fuel Constance’s desire to make the world a better place — at least their corner of it — and to keep the money rolling in. Watching the Sheriff Heath interact with these ladies is a hoot.

I’m not sure it stacks up to its predecessor as a novel — it’s not as deep, the story’s really straightforward, and you might argue the ending is a bit rushed. But, it’s a whole lot more fun to read. Having established the world so effectively in the first book, Stewart can just let her characters live in it. This is a solid crime novel, elevated by the historical circumstances and actual history that undergirds it. Stewart really won me over with this one, I hope we have many more installments to come.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

—–

4 Stars

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Girl Waits with GunGirl Waits with Gun

by Amy Stewart
Series: The Kopp Sisters, #1

Hardcover, 404 pg.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Read: November 27 – 28, 2015

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

That line is uttered in the final few pages of this novel, but it does a pretty good job of summing up Constance Kopp (and her two sisters, too). Fitting, really, for “of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.”

It’s 1914. Constance, her older sister Norma, and much younger sister, Fleurette, live on a farm in Northern New Jersey. They’re out for a drive into town in a carriage when an automobile slams into the side. Everyone escapes fairly unscathed, but rattled. Well, the ladies are rattled, the driver of the car, Henry Kaufman, and his companions are annoyed that the Kopps had the temerity to be on the road, much less be struck by a car. Constance demands payment for repairs, but Kaufman brushes her off.

But Constance is persistent and begins to annoy Kaufman, who’s notorious for busting a strike the year before (and should be notorious for worse). And when Kaufman gets annoyed bad things happen — a campaign for intimidation begins against the sisters. Soon it becomes a battle of wills — Kaufman’s arrogance and pride vs. Constance’s gumption, stubbornness, and sense of right.

Constance soon learns of more of Kaufman’s crimes and abuses, meeting other victims — who warn her just how bad things can be. While she tries to withstand Kaufman’s assaults, she begins to try to help other victims. At the same time, she befriends the local sheriff, one of the rare lawmen in the area who aren’t beholden to Kaufman and his peers.

There’s a lightness to the writing, but the subject matter is grim — and frequently uncomfortable. Whether it’s the persecution of the sisters, Constance’s investigation into Kaufman’s misdeeds, or Stewart exploring the events that brought the Kopps to their present circumstances, this is a hard world and it takes a certain kind of person to make it. But you wouldn’t know that from the narration, really — just as Constance maintains a proper disposition (or tries to) and manners, so does Stewart.

It would’ve been very easy to turn this into something it’s not. Probably very tempting, too. It could’ve been all about the gender disparity of the time, and a feminist crusade. Or about the economics and labor conditions of the area and time — the strikes and the way they were dealt with by the owners and police. Or any number of other things, really. And it was about those things, but primarily it was a story. A decently told story with well-constructed characters. You give me one of those, and you can throw whatever politics, economic theory, etc. you want into the mix and I’ll read it. I may not buy everything you’re selling, but I’ll listen, and if your story and characters are good enough, I’ll come back. Too many people — particularly with historical fiction, it seems — will do okay with the story, mess up the characters, but nail the agenda. Stewart avoided those pitfalls, and thereby served her audience and any possible point she wanted to better.

Now, while this is a novel, it appears that Stewart has done as much research as she could to make this as non-fiction as possible. I’ve wondered a bit about that approach, does that limit what parts of the story she tells? Which would account for some odd gaps. And if it does limit it — is that a good or a bad thing? Or does that depend on the writer? That’s probably it, for some writers, such a limit would be freeing, while others would find the restriction too much. Stewart, it seems, turns this into a strength — matching with her previous non-fiction publications.

A fun little ride, full of historical nuggets, and a family you’d like to spend some time with. A little action, a little danger, but not a lot of violence. A pleasant mix of historical fiction and mystery. It’ll work for the cozy reader, the historical fiction reader, and people who just like good stories.

—–

3 Stars