Sometimes the most interesting novels are those based on actual events. And as the old adage goes, truth is stranger than fiction. In Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits with Gun, actual historical events are embellished into a fascinating story of three sisters fighting against enormous odds for truth and justice. When the Kopp sisters (Constance, Norma, and Fluerette) are the victims of a dreadful collision between their horse-drawn buggy and a speeding automobile, Constance sends a bill for the damages to Henry Kaufman, the driver of the car. Kaufman is a local factory owner and unsavory type, with a gang of thugs at his beck and call. Naturally, Kaufman refuses to pay and grows increasingly belligerent towards the sisters. After they suffer threats through the mail, bricks through windows, and attempted arson, Constance and her sisters team up with the local sheriff to catch the criminal and his gang.
The most fascinating aspect of this novel is that it actually happened. Stewart clearly did extensive research to find primary source documents to support her narrative: newspapers, letters, court documents, and even a photo of the real Constance Kopp. This gives a rich, gritty, lived-in feel to the novel, even though Stewart admits that she did have to embellish a few things. Besides its roots in the historical record, the best part of the book is the spirited and fiercely independent main character, Constance. However, she is held back by the times she lives in, and I felt her frustration when people repeatedly asked why her father or brother was not protecting her from Kaufman and his gang. My one major complaint for this novel is that the writing tends to be slow – the story draws out for pages and pages and then the ending is resolved very quickly. I recommend Girl Waits with Gun to anyone who enjoys a richly detailed historical novel, and if you like the first book, make sure to pick up the sequel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble.
Review by Shannon Wood
Adult Services Librarian
Nordonia Hills Branch Library