The best-selling author of Girl Waits with Gun and Lady Cop Makes Trouble continues her extraordinary journey into the real lives of the forgotten but fabulous Kopp sisters. Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges of waywardness, incorrigibility, and moral depravity. The strong-willed, patriotic Edna Heustis, who left home to work in a munitions factory, certainly doesn’t belong behind bars. And sixteen-year-old runaway Minnie Davis, with few prospects and fewer friends, shouldn’t be publicly shamed and packed off to a state-run reformatory. But such were the laws—and morals—of 1916. Constance uses her authority as deputy sheriff, and occasionally exceeds it, to investigate and defend these women when no one else will. But it's her sister Fleurette who puts Constance's beliefs to the test and forces her to reckon with her own ideas of how a young woman should and shouldn't behave. Against the backdrop of World War I, and drawn once again from the true story of the Kopp sisters, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions is a spirited, page-turning story that will delight fans of historical fiction and lighthearted detective fiction alike.
About the Author
AMY STEWART is the award-winning author of eight books, including the first two Kopp Sisters novels, Girl Waits with Gun and Lady Cop Makes Trouble, and the bestsellers The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants. She and her husband live in California, where they own a bookstore called Eureka Books.
Read an Excerpt
On the morning of her arrest, Edna Heustis awoke early and put her room in order. She occupied the smallest of Mrs. Turnbull’s furnished rooms, nothing more than an alcove under the eaves, with just enough space for a bed and a wash-stand. A row of iron hooks on the wall held the entirety of her wardrobe: two work uniforms, a Sunday dress, and a winter coat. The only decoration was a picture of a sailboat, furnished by Mrs. Turnbull, and for reading material her landlady had issued her a history of the Italian lakes, a guide to Egyptian art, and a general’s wife’s account of Army life on the western plains. Those sat on a hang-shelf, alongside an oil lampalthough Edna preferred to do her reading in the parlor, under the single electrical light offered for that purpose.
Absent from her possessions were any portraits of her family or mementos of home. She’d left in such a hurry that she hadn’t thought to bring any. She’d been inquiring at factories for weeks, and when the women’s superintendent at the DuPont powder works in Pompton Lakes agreed to hire her on, she dashed home, gathered up only that which she could carry, then slipped out the back door while her mother was occupied in the kitchen.
Edna might have been a quiet and serious girl, but she’d been raised among boys and had a fine sense of adventure about her. The war in Europe had reached its boiling point, and every American boy was eager to join the fight. If there was work to be done for the war, and women were allowed to do it, Edna was impatient to begin. She left the briefest of notes on the day she left: “Gone to work for France in Pompton Lakes. I have a place in a good house and you needn’t worry.”
It was true about the good house. Mrs. Turnbull only rented to girls from the powder works and maintained a strict policy about curfews and church attendance on Sundays. She was in many ways a tougher task-master than Edna’s mother had been, but Edna didn’t mind about that. She believed the regimen of living in a boarding-house to be similar to that of the Army, and liked to imagine that the daily making up of her room (tucking in the sheets, folding down the coverlet, stowing her bed-slippers and nightgown, arranging her brush and comb in an even row alongside the basin) might resemble, in some way, the orderliness of military camp life, of which her brothers were so eager to partake.
But France seemed very far away that morning as Edna stepped into her work dress, washed her face in the basin, and ran down the stairs for breakfast. In the cramped butler’s pantry that served as a dining room, Mrs. Turnbull had put out porridge and stewed apples. Edna sat, as she did every morning, in comfortable silence among the five other girls who roomed there: Delia, Winifred, Irma, Fannie, and Pearl. Their conversation ran along familiar lines:
First Delia said, “There’s a ladder in my stocking so far beyond mending that I might as well go bare.”
Then Fannie said, “Albert’s good for another pair.”
To which Irma replied, “Then it’s a shame she threw off Albert and went with those men from the Navy, who don’t need to supply a girl with stockings before she’ll go to a dance hall with them.”
Then Pearl said, “Delia, you didn’t go with all of them, did you?”
And Delia retorted, “You couldn’t expect me to choose one!”
This kind of talk had embarrassed Edna terribly the first time she heard it. Before she left home, she’d allowed a friend of her brothers’ to pay a little attention to her, but she could never imagine stolid and steadfast Dewey Barnes buying her a pair of stockings or taking her to a crowded and noisy dance hall and then letting her stumble home, as the girls at the boarding-house did, dazed by liquor and cigarettes, with a sort of swollen and bruised look about the lips that they wore like a badge until it faded.
It wasn’t that Edna disapproved of their feminine vanity, or their wild ways. She just couldn’t do what they did. She didn’t know how to make herself up and put herself on display. Dancing was a foreign language to her: she felt foolish trying to work out the Kangaroo Hop or the Peabody, and never could master Delia’s trick of kicking her heel back when she turned to make her skirt fly up. She practiced with them because they insisted, but more often than not she took the man’s part, maneuvering woodenly while the other girls practiced their flourishes.
Only once did she allow herself to be dragged along to a dance hall with them, and there she found herself entirely outmatched. Over the whirl of laughter and music, the other girls chatted gaily with any man who came into their orbit. They had a knack for making the sort of easy, meaningless chatter that would lead to a turn on the dance floor, then a sip from a bottle secreted away in a man’s pocket, a taste of his cigarette, and a kiss just outside the door, sheltered under a dark and discreet night sky.
But Edna hadn’t any idea where to begin, and wasn’t sure she wanted to. Every dance step, every smile, every laughing word exchanged with a man was like a piece of machinery that she didn’t know how to operate. Instead she held her friends’ purses, and went home at midnight with all of their keys, rattling them in every doorknob so that Mrs. Turnbull might hear the sound of all six girls returning home at once.
The others didn’t mind that Edna stayed home from the dances after that, and for her part, she’d grown accustomed to their ways. She was sitting placidly among them that morning, listening with some amusement but relieved, as always, that they didn’t expect her to join in.
“You remember Frank, don’t you? From the train station?” Delia whispered.
Pearl leaned in and said, “The one with the walking stick filled with whiskey?”
“Yes,” Delia said gleefully. “That one. He asked me to Atlantic City for the weekend. How am I going to get away? I’m all out of sisters with birthdays.”
“What about an elderly aunt in a state of decline?” Fannie offered.
“What about inviting me?” Irma complained.
“Oh, Frank would like that, but he’s to register us as man and wife, and who would you be?”
“I’ll be the sister with the birthday! Or the elderly aunt. Just take me along.”
They were all laughing at that when heavy footsteps stormed the porch and someone pounded the brass knocker hard enough to rattle their saucers. Every girl leapt up at once, flushed and guilty, as if they had, improbably, been overheard and caught. Mrs. Turnbull, having just come up from her lodgings in the basement, bustled past and admonished them to finish quickly and wash their own bowls.
But not a single girl moved, and not a single spoon clanked against a dish, as the door swung open and a policeman’s brusque voice demanded to see a Miss Edna Heustis, who was to be put under arrest on a charge of waywardness and taken without delay to the Hackensack jail.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions is the third book in the Kopp Sisters series by NYT best-selling American author, Amy Stewart. As Deputy Sheriff and Matron of Hackensack jail, Constance Kopp deals with several so-called morality cases where young girls, often runaways, are arrested for Waywardness or Illegal Cohabitation. Detective Courter and Paterson’s only female police officer, Mrs Belle Headison, are of the opinion that these girls need to be sent to the reformatory until they attain 21, while Constance and Sheriff Heath believe they can be rehabilitated with the right support, in such cases where the arrest is not actually on entirely frivolous grounds. Edna Heustis is one such young lady whom Constance manages to have released with a clever defence, and then finds herself informally appointed, through a casual remark from the presiding judge, as a probation officer of sorts. But not all the cases are quite so innocent and Constance learns some facts of life that may see an unfortunate girl in regrettable circumstances. Minnie Davis looks headed for the Reformatory but, when Constance sees that place first hand, she is determined to prevent it. Meanwhile, young Fleurette is champing at the bit for more freedom, her current wish being a place in May Ward’s popular vaudeville troupe. What Fleurette wants has Constance re-examining her own beliefs on appropriate behaviour for a young lady. Norma’s distrust of strangers reaches new heights and sees her taking unprecedented action, with some unexpected consequences. In trying to realise her fondest desire, Fleurette learns that the reality is not only disappointing but also rather tedious. In this instalment, Constance: finally gets her Deputy’s badge; can’t escape the voracious press and their highly inaccurate reporting; is consequently plagued by letters offering marriage, clever rejections to all of which are produced with great alacrity by Norma; and is dismayed to hear that the coming elections will furnish her with a new Sheriff, possibly the man who is currently the bane of her life, Detective Courter. Stewart’s Historical Notes and Sources are interesting and informative, revealing that Constance Kopp and her sisters were real people, much as described, as are quite a few of the other characters. Many of the events that form the plot also occurred, if not always when stated. Stewart takes the known historical facts and fleshes them out into a marvellous tale. Stewart effortlessly portrays the characteristics of everyday life of the early twentieth century and clearly demonstrates how different life was over a hundred years ago, including the utter dependence and powerlessness of women at this time in history. The letters proposing marriage, and the replies drafted by Norma provide some wry humour, as does the dialogue. Excellent historical crime fiction that will have readers seeking out the fourth book, Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit.
I am on the third book of Amy Stewart's series, MISS KOPP'S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS. These books should come with a "won't get anything else done" warning, but they are perfect company on a cold day. I can't quite define what makes me as a reader care about characters, some balance of good with human foibles, but I know when I'm in the grip of it, and Amy Stewart has it, along with writing that flows beautifully. Strong, intelligent characters, humanity, and enough unexpected twists to keep things lively. I came across GIRL WAITS WITH GUN in, of all places, the Costco newsletter. ;-)
I love these books about the Kopp sisters by Amy Stewart. The three sisters are such a trip to read about. Constance, being the first female deputy, Norma, always incorrigible, and Fleurette, the youngest with stars in her eyes. This book deals with families, mothers, fathers, husbands, whoever, having girls put in jail because they are "out of control". One mother had her daughter arrested who was over 18, had a job and a place to live, because she needed her back at the house. There was just too much work for her to do by herself. SMH While there are some serious issues going on and being dealt with in this book, I had a lot of laughs as well. Constance is forever getting marriage proposals when the papers write about this "new woman deputy". Some of the letters are downright hilarious. A fun, interesting and highly entertaining read for me. Thanks to Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.