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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. 5th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-544-40999-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2017

Kirkus Interview
Amy Stewart
September 8, 2015

In her first novel Girl Waits With Gun, Amy Stewart, who’s well-known for her nonfiction, crafts a solid, absorbing novel based on real-life events—though they’re unusual enough to seem invented. Constance Kopp and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, are driving into Paterson, New Jersey, on a summer day in 1914 when a motor car rams them, splintering their buggy and mildly injuring all three women and their horse. Drunken lout Henry Kaufman thinks that owning a local silk manufacturer entitles him to ignore Constance’s reasonable request that he pay for the damages, but he’s misjudged his opponent. As Constance’s first-person narrative unfolds, we see that she’s a bold woman unafraid to defy convention, determined to see justice done and to protect her family. “More adventures involving gutsy Constance, quietly determined Sheriff Heath, and a lively cast of supporting characters would be most welcome,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >


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