Lively and admirable female characters emboldened by their circumstances, impeccably realized and given new life by Stewart.

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MISS KOPP'S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS

From the Kopp Sisters series , Vol. 3

With a growing number of young women being arrested on morality charges, and no one to defend them, it’s up to Under Sheriff Constance Kopp—based on a real-life female deputy—to ask the tough questions.

In 1916 Bergen County, New Jersey, the papers are still aflutter over the recently hired Under Sheriff in charge of the women's section at the Hackensack jail (Lady Cop Makes Trouble, 2016, etc.). So much so that Constance is receiving a steady stream of marriage proposals, which her sister Norma answers with steely reserve and a welcome hint of sarcasm. People can’t take in her new badge without commenting, so imagine the attention Constance draws when she goes beyond the call of duty to help 18-year-old Edna Heustis, recently arrested on a charge of waywardness filed by her own mother when she left home to work at a factory making parts for the war. Detective John Courter, representing the prosecutor's office, insists that the girl be sent to a reformatory until she's 21, but luckily for Constance, his single-mindedness leaves him unprepared for her defense of Edna's good character, which she proves in front of a judge after having conducted her own investigation. But there are more girls where Edna came from, including Minnie Davis, who may be harder to prove innocent. Through Constance’s diligent investigative work, Stewart details each girl's back story while powerfully representing her longing for the opportunity to lead a purposeful life. Constance's own beliefs come into question, though, when her younger sister, Fleurette—secretly her illegitimate daughter—desires a life on stage and secures a chance to impress Broadway actress May Ward. Constance’s ability to hold her own in male-dominated investigations and courtrooms, as well as her determination to present the facts, makes her a welcome “vision of an entirely different kind of woman,” hopefully with more tales to come.

Lively and admirable female characters emboldened by their circumstances, impeccably realized and given new life by Stewart.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-40999-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Inspired by disclosures of a real-life Florida reform school’s long-standing corruption and abusive practices, Whitehead’s...

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THE NICKEL BOYS

The acclaimed author of The Underground Railroad (2016) follows up with a leaner, meaner saga of Deep South captivity set in the mid-20th century and fraught with horrors more chilling for being based on true-life atrocities.

Elwood Curtis is a law-abiding, teenage paragon of rectitude, an avid reader of encyclopedias and after-school worker diligently overcoming hardships that come from being abandoned by his parents and growing up black and poor in segregated Tallahassee, Florida. It’s the early 1960s, and Elwood can feel changes coming every time he listens to an LP of his hero Martin Luther King Jr. sermonizing about breaking down racial barriers. But while hitchhiking to his first day of classes at a nearby black college, Elwood accepts a ride in what turns out to be a stolen car and is sentenced to the Nickel Academy, a juvenile reformatory that looks somewhat like the campus he’d almost attended but turns out to be a monstrously racist institution whose students, white and black alike, are brutally beaten, sexually abused, and used by the school’s two-faced officials to steal food and supplies. At first, Elwood thinks he can work his way past the arbitrary punishments and sadistic treatment (“I am stuck here, but I’ll make the best of it…and I’ll make it brief”). He befriends another black inmate, a street-wise kid he knows only as Turner, who has a different take on withstanding Nickel: “The key to in here is the same as surviving out there—you got to see how people act, and then you got to figure out how to get around them like an obstacle course.” And if you defy them, Turner warns, you’ll get taken “out back” and are never seen or heard from again. Both Elwood’s idealism and Turner’s cynicism entwine into an alliance that compels drastic action—and a shared destiny. There's something a tad more melodramatic in this book's conception (and resolution) than one expects from Whitehead, giving it a drugstore-paperback glossiness that enhances its blunt-edged impact.

Inspired by disclosures of a real-life Florida reform school’s long-standing corruption and abusive practices, Whitehead’s novel displays its author’s facility with violent imagery and his skill at weaving narrative strands into an ingenious if disquieting whole.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-53707-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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