After losing her dream job as Bergen County deputy sheriff, Constance Kopp regroups at a Maryland Army camp for women on the eve of World War I.
In the fifth installment of her feisty, fact-based series (Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, 2018, etc.), Stewart throws an additional real-life figure into the fictional mix: Beulah Binford, fleeing a notorious past in Richmond and thinking that training to support the troops will be her ticket to a new life in France—if only no one recognizes her. What precisely Beulah is trying to hide is the only sort-of mystery here, and her memories leading up to that revelation form a substantial part of the novel. Though her story is fairly interesting, it does give Stewart less room for the Kopp sisters. That may be just as well, since Norma’s efforts to persuade the Army of the value of carrier pigeons is neither as interesting nor as funny as Stewart seems to think, and Fleurette’s stage-struck self-absorption is a slightly shopworn trait, though it is fun to see Beulah taking tart notice of it. Constance, who reluctantly assumes command of the camp after an injury sidelines her predecessor, dismisses the training deemed suitable for ladies as “a game” and secretly instructs a small group of equally determined women in the use of real guns. But she’s still brooding over her vanished opportunity in law enforcement, and a bit of a bore about it too, until Beulah proves the worth of her insertion into the series by forcefully (but not unsympathetically) urging Constance to make her own opportunities. A slam-bang finale mostly compensates for the fuzzy focus of this installment: Constance’s unorthodox training is triumphantly justified, and Norma wins a high-ranking ally for her pigeons. Plenty of loose ends are dangled for future volumes as Constance and Beulah both make peace with their pasts and plans to move forward.
A bit messy, but perhaps required to recalibrate this deservedly popular series for future volumes.