To kick off 2017 with a bang, I read Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits with Gun. Stewart tells the story of the Kopp sisters and their ill-fated car and buggy accident with a New Jersey silk magnate, Henry Kaufman, in the early parts of the 20th century. Viewers of Comedy Central’s delightful show “Drunk History” might have familiarity with this story – this very run-in was hilariously covered in the most recent season.
The Kopp sisters – Constance, Norma and Fleurette – live alone on their farm in rural New Jersey. One afternoon on their way home from nearby Paterson, a speeding car runs right into their buggy. All the sisters are fine – just a few cuts and bruises. Their buggy, however, is not. The buggy being their sole mode of transportation and their lack of financial security drives Constance to seek reparation from the car’s driver – Henry Kaufman. What Constance couldn’t have known was how deranged Kaufman was. He was a spoiled son of a mill owner who spent his days drinking and carousing with mafia-like individuals instead of actually devoting his time to running the family’s silk mill. Kaufman makes it a point to terrorize the Kopp sisters.
This novel is based on true events. Constance Kopp is (spoiler) one of America’s first female Deputy Sheriffs. The way Stewart has characterized each sister is amusing and fascinating. Norma has a fondness for and skill with pigeons. Fleurette is a flighty young teen with a talent for dress making and drama. Stewart generates back stories about their life prior to the farm, when they lived in Brooklyn – even giving Constance an illicit affair with a sewing machine salesman. Constance pursues the repair money and investigates a side mystery about Kaufman, putting her and her sisters in danger. This also affords her the opportunity to meet the local sheriff, who has wanted to put Kaufman away for some time.
This novel starts out slow, but is quite enjoyable in the end. I think sadly, Drunk History might have ruined this novel for me. Having already known how the story ends makes the filler seem a little superfluous. Perhaps someone who doesn’t know the story would find it more exciting. I will say I am interested to see what the sequel has going for it – as far as I know it’s mostly fictional. In any case I don’t know what happened to Constance beyond this initial case, so it wouldn’t be ruined for me.