Taking on a rich lout.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First Published: 1st September 2015
Date Reviewed: 15th September 2015
1914: Constance and her sisters were riding their buggy when a car hit them. The owner, the manager of a silk factory, is unwilling to pay the damages and soon the girls find themselves being harassed by his group of thugs. The law courts and detectives aren’t interested and there’s little the police can do until a threat is put into action.
Girl Waits With Gun is an historical novel loosely based on true characters. Constance Kopp and her sisters are people history has forgotten. Presumably the beginning of a series, the book focuses on the sisters’ lives before Constance became a deputy.
Though there is of course a lot of almost forced helplessness, warranted for the time, the book goes a long way in showing the way women could on occasion take control of their destinies. Constance, Norma, and Fleurette are quite fearless and whilst Fleurette is flighty, Norma’s seriousness and Constance’s common sense add up to a good team. That it’s based on truth only makes it better. The social elements are well shown – the frustration of not being listened to compounded by a villain who won’t give up. Stewart talks you through the process of the courts and all the things that wouldn’t happen today.
Great is the application of humour. There are some very funny scenes, particularly near the start, that beg to be highlighted. The domestic/social issue Stewart has added, the fate of unwed mothers, holds much promise and is a good feature, as is the way she moves the sisters from the emotional and social isolation their mother’s worries left them living in to a more open environment. (In this respect, aside from Constance’s later role as deputy sheriff, Fleurette is served best, her extroversion suddenly given full reign and her desires to be the centre of attention taking to the stage, almost literally.) The sisters have been written very well; they read as real as they obviously were and interesting enough that you’ll likely want to do some research.
The book is evidently the introduction for a series; there is a lot of information in it. This means all the ground work is set and in all likelihood the next books will be thrilling, but it also means that Girl Waits With Gun is missing the necessary grip it needed in order to keep the suspense up and the plot moving forward at a steady pace. The thrill, the mystery and suspense that should have accompanied the constant threats of Kaufman’s men is not here; instead we have a general lack of the feeling of danger – staying at home, not being watched over enough – and a pacing that’s frustratingly slow.
A lot of the problem is that Stewart has focused this book on the before – the events before Constance Kopp became a deputy sheriff – and has thus had to create most of the back story. There is a lot of detailing and telling, little showing. There is a lot of repetition, odd grammar choices and anachronisms. Had the book been reduced by half it wouldn’t be so noticeable, nor would the plot meander so much.
If you like learning about the era and about women who broke the mould, you may enjoy Girl Waits With Gun, but know that the title relates more to later events, at least as far as exceptions of action go. It’s a fair story but most will want to wait until book two.
I received this book for review from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
September 16, 2015, 4:15 pm
I’m always delighted when I come across a historical fiction book/author that I haven’t stumbled upon before. And with its addition of humour this sounds like my kind of read.
September 17, 2015, 12:40 am
I liked this one more than you did, Charlie, but I think you make fair points in terms of the plotting and focus on back story. Hopefully you will like the next book in the series more should you read it.