Amy Stewart, Lady Cop Makes Trouble (2016)
The second entry in Amy Stewart’s historical mystery series based on the real-life Kopp sisters is as compulsively readable and effortlessly enjoyable as the first. Constance Kopp has become the first female deputy sheriff in New Jersey — or thinks she has. But politics and a devious criminal get in the way, and Constance finds herself demoted to prison matron. That doesn’t stop her from engaging in the exciting chase after a dangerous fugitive, with her own unique blend of determination, guts, and luck (of both kinds).
These are books that combine character- and relationship-building with the pure fun of a detective story. I found that the first book, Girl Waits with Gun, was heavier on the former, while this one emphasizes the latter. I would definitely recommend reading them both together to get the full story, for the important history of Constance and her family doesn’t get much play in the sequel, nor do they have many scenes with each other since Constance is often off on her own. I hope this element will come back in future volumes, but for now it was fine to de-emphasize that aspect in favor of more action. The relationship of Constance and the sheriff (and the sheriff’s wife) does come a bit further here, in some interesting ways that make one wonder where it will be headed. Not in any conventional or hackneyed direction, I would guess.
The way Stewart mixes fact and fiction might be controversial for some, but I found that she does it in a responsible way. She makes it clear that she has played around with characters and incidents for narrative purposes; I can accept that this is a sort of fictional alternate reality to be enjoyed on its own terms. On the other hand, the real-life nuggets she’s pulled from the headlines and archives of the past give verisimilitude and ground the story in reality. Stewart expertly plays imagination and research off of one another in a way that is a pleasure in itself; for example, she comes up with a reason for Constance to appear as she does in a particular real-life newspaper photo that is perhaps not factually accurate, but plausible enough in the context of the world she has created, and also an amusing comic touch.
So bring on more of the Kopp sisters! I can’t wait to see what they get up to next.