Audiobook Review: Miss Kopp Investigates by Amy Stewart

Title: Miss Kopp Investigates (Kopp Sisters, #7)
Author: Amy Stewart
Narrator: Christina Moore
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication date: September 7 , 2021
Print length: 320 pages
Audiobook length: 8 hours 17 minutes
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher; audiobook via Audible
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Life after the war takes an unexpected turn for the Kopp sisters, but soon enough, they are putting their unique detective skills to use in new and daring ways. 

Winter 1919: Norma is summoned home from France, Constance is called back from Washington, and Fleurette puts her own plans on hold as the sisters rally around their recently widowed sister-in-law and her children. How are four women going to support themselves? 

A chance encounter offers Fleurette a solution: clandestine legal work for a former colleague of Constance’s. She becomes a “professional co-respondent,” posing as the “other woman” in divorce cases so that photographs can be entered as evidence to procure a divorce. While her late-night assignments are both exciting and lucrative, they put her on a collision course with her own family, who would never approve of such disreputable work. One client’s suspicious behavior leads Fleurette to uncover a much larger crime, putting her in the unlikely position of amateur detective.  

In Miss Kopp Investigates, Amy Stewart once again brilliantly captures the women of this era—their ambitions for the future as well as the ties that bind—at the start of a promising new decade.  

The Kopp Sisters books are a mix of historical fact and fictional storytelling, as author Amy Stewart follows the lives of three real sisters and brings them to glorious life through her excellent writing.

In Miss Kopp Investigates, the 7th book in the series, the three Kopp sisters have returned home to New Jersey in the aftermath of World War I, but all is not well. Their older brother Francis has died suddenly, leaving behind a pregnant wife (Bessie), two children, and piles of debt. The sisters are grieving their loss, but they’re also the Kopp sisters — which means that they absolutely do not wallow or give up. Instead, they stand beside their bereaved sister-in-law and come up with plans to support her and the children, even though this means giving up their own dreams.

For Constance, who’s been the lead character in the series so far, this means turning down her dream job, a position with the Bureau of Investigations in Washington training women in law enforcement. For Norma, the bossy, curmudgeonly sister whose crazy ideas about messenger pigeons ended up working brilliantly during the war, it’s a return to New Jersey instead of staying in Europe to do relief work with a friend. And for Fleurette, the youngest sister who dreams of stardom on the stage, it’s abandoning her hopes of moving out and preparing for her return to her singing career.

Alas, poor Fleurette also has a damaged voice after a bad case of strep throat, and her once-beautiful voice isn’t coming back to her as it was. Now, with a new plan to support Bessie, Fleurette feels sad and unfulfilled and as though all her hopes are gone. Enter John Wood, a slick-talking divorce lawyer already acquainted with the Kopps, with a proposition for Fleurette. Why not use her acting skills in a new and different way? Divorces in New Jersey can only move forward if there’s cause, and he has clients who need evidence of adultery, even if none actually occurred. Fleurette’s role would be to be photographed (fully clothed!! nothing actually unseemly!!) being embraced by a man as if caught in the act. Her face would not be shown, she’d be protected by one of the law firm employees at all times, and she’d earn very good money for her efforts.

At first, Fleurette is shocked… but then she starts to think about it as playing a role. She’d pick her own costumes and characters, put in an evening’s work, and would earn enough to really contribute to the household. Why not?

I was surprised to discover that Miss Kopp Investigates focuses on Fleurette’s adventures — her first time as the lead character. Constance is mostly in the background, and while Norma is her grumpy, bossy self here, she’s also secondary. I admit that I was a little hesitant about spending that much time with Fleurette, who has often seemed shallow and self-centered in previous books, but I ended up being delighted by her fresh voice and her determination (as well as her occasional silliness and vanity).

Without going too much further into the plot details, I can say that Fleurette’s story takes some unexpected turns, and while her pursuits are done on her own and in secret, her story still intersects throughout with her sisters’ and with their shared goal of supporting and protecting their brother’s family.

The author once again provides snappy dialogue and distinct characters — both the Kopp sisters as well as the supporting and minor characters — and roots it all in a portrayal of post-war life that feels real and well-researched.

The plot zips along, and while settling back into post-war life is perhaps not quite as exciting as the war years, it’s still entertaining to see how the Kopp sisters fend for themselves and chart their own course.

The audiobook is wonderful, with the talented Christina Moore once again absolutely shining as she brings Constance, Norma, and Fleurette to life. Listening to her speaking as Norma, we immediately know exactly what sort of person she is — tough, take-charge, no backing down, and probably a nightmare to actually live with. Likewise for Fleurette — the narrator absolutely nails her youth, her vision of herself and what she yearns for, just by speaking in her voice.

Amy Stewart has shared that this is the last Kopp Sisters book, at least for a while. She hasn’t said she’ll never go back to their stories, just that she has no plans to do so at this time and will be working on other projects. While that’s very sad news and I hope she does end up continuing this series, Miss Kopp Investigates also ends in such a way that we readers can feel satisfied with where we’re leaving the family. As the author has said, she’s leaving them in a good place, and we can still have the pleasure of imagining what’s next!

I do love this series, and recommend the books whenever I can. If you’ve read this far, you’ll absolutely want to read Miss Kopp Investigates! And if you’re an audiobook listener, then do check out the audiobooks for the Kopp Sisters series. You’ll be in for a treat!

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The series so far:
Girl Waits With Gun
Lady Cop Makes Trouble
Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions
Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit
Kopp Sisters on the March

Dear Miss Kopp


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Book Review: Dear Miss Kopp by Amy Stewart

Title: Dear Miss Kopp (Kopp Sisters, #6)
Author: Amy Stewart
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: January 12, 2021
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher and author
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The indomitable Kopp sisters are tested at home and abroad in this warm and witty tale of wartime courage and camaraderie.

The U.S. has finally entered World War I and Constance is chasing down suspected German saboteurs and spies for the Bureau of Investigation while Fleurette is traveling across the country entertaining troops with song and dance. Meanwhile, at an undisclosed location in France, Norma is overseeing her thwarted pigeon project for the Army Signal Corps. When Aggie, a nurse at the American field hospital, is accused of stealing essential medical supplies, the intrepid Norma is on the case to find the true culprit.

The far-flung sisters—separated for the first time in their lives—correspond with news of their days. The world has irrevocably changed—will the sisters be content to return to the New Jersey farm when the war is over?

Told through letters, Dear Miss Kopp weaves the stories of real life women into a rich fiction brimming with the historical detail and humor that are hallmarks of the series, proving once again that “any novel that features the Kopp Sisters is going to be a riotous, unforgettable adventure” (Bustle).

The Kopp Sisters are back! In Dear Miss Kopp, we follow the sisters into war, as each of the characters has her own mission to follow, each serving the country in her own way during the years of World War I.

The sixth book in the series, Dear Miss Kopp is the first to be told exclusively through letters, which makes sense: Constance, Norma, and Fleurette find themselves on very separate paths, far from one another geographically, and they must rely on their letters to keep in touch and to continue to support each other as they always have, even from a distance.

Constance has started her work with the Bureau of Investigation (the early FBI), one of the only women serving as an agent. She uses her unique talents to chase down and apprehend saboteurs, and her adventures in this book illustrate the threats faced domestically during the war years.

Norma is in the thick of things in France, where she applies her prickly, stubborn ways to making sure her messenger pigeons are able to serve the US armed forces. Norma being Norma, she manages to rub just about everyone the wrong way, but is ultimately instrumental in solving a spy mystery in the small French village where she’s stationed.

And lovely youngest sister Fleurette is on the go, touring the country with a vaudeville act, entertaining soldiers at army bases all across the US. Fleurette too has her share of challenges, and she always adds a bit of levity to any situation.

As always, a Kopp Sisters book is an utter delight. I love seeing the sisters’ dynamics, and also getting to see them each in action, deploying their varied talents and fighting for the chance to make a difference in a man’s world. At this point in the series, I feel that we readers know the characters so well, and it’s a treat to see them in these new settings, standing up for what they believe in and making unique contributions to the war effort.

Through the sisters’ adventures in Dear Miss Kopp, we also get an inside look as aspects of World War I that don’t necessarily get a lot of attention, including the support efforts abroad, away from the front lines, the devastating war injuries suffered by the soldiers, and the intense work at home to combat sabotage aimed at impeding the war efforts.

As a whole, the Kopp Sisters books are wonderful, and I loved this new installment. Can’t wait for more!

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The series so far:
Girl Waits With Gun
Lady Cop Makes Trouble
Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions
Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit
Kopp Sisters on the March

Aubiobook Review: Kopp Sisters on the March by Amy Stewart

 

In the fifth installment of Amy Stewart’s clever and original Kopp Sisters series, the sisters learn some military discipline—whether they’re ready or not—as the U.S. prepares to enter World War I.

It’s the spring of 1917 and change is in the air. American women have done something remarkable: they’ve banded together to create military-style training camps for women who want to serve. These so-called National Service Schools prove irresistible to the Kopp sisters, who leave their farm in New Jersey to join up.

When an accident befalls the matron, Constance reluctantly agrees to oversee the camp—much to the alarm of the Kopps’ tent-mate, the real-life Beulah Binford, who is seeking refuge from her own scandalous past under the cover of a false identity. Will she be denied a second chance? And after notoriety, can a woman’s life ever be her own again?

In Kopp Sisters on the March, the women of Camp Chevy Chase face down the skepticism of the War Department, the double standards of a scornful public, and the very real perils of war. Once again, Amy Stewart has brilliantly brought a little-known moment in history to light with her fearless and funny Kopp sisters novels.

My Thoughts:

Long live the Kopp sisters! This brilliant series continues strong, as fearless Constance Kopp and her sisters Norma and Fleurette leave behind their New Jersey farm to attend a women’s training camp. The US is on the verge of joining the war in Europe. Young women, mostly of privileged families, sign up to attend a National Service School to learn military bed-making, bandage-rolling, and some basics about marching in formation and understanding signalling.

For most of these women, it’s not particularly serious. Most will go back home to mommy and daddy afterward — but for some, it’s a stepping stone to sailing for France, where they hope to join the war effort in whatever way they can. And for one woman in Kopp Sisters on the March, the camp and France represent an escape from her intolerable, scandal-ridden life.

When the Kopp sisters arrive at camp, it’s the year after Constance has lost her job as a sheriff’s deputy, after the election of a new sheriff who has no interest in or tolerance for women in law enforcement. Constance is adrift and rather hopeless, until she ends up being put in charge of the camp after the camp matron is injured. Under Constance’s direction, the camp takes on a more disciplined and focused feel, and she even introduces secret hand-to-hand combat and shooting lessons for the small group of women who are determined to be taken seriously and prepare themselves for the war.

The narrative is split between Constance and her sisters and the historical figure Beulah Binford. As the author explains in her notes, there’s no record of the real-life Beulah attending such a camp, but it seems like a great fit for her to place her in this story. Beulah was the “other woman” in a highly publicized murder case, and while she was never charged with a crime, she was dragged through the papers and became one of the most notorious women of the time, forcing her to live under assumed identities and live in hiding. I didn’t realize until I got to the end of the book and read the notes that Beulah was a real person — this made her parts of the story all the more fascinating and tragic, seeing how an uneducated, resourceless woman could end up having her life so thoroughly ruined.

It’s a bit jarring to have the action in a Kopp sisters book move away from law enforcement and local police work to a military setting, but it tracks with the timeline of the real Kopp sisters, and seems like a natural choice for them in the context of the US’s war preparations. As always, Constance is a strong character who doesn’t back down and who is determined to improve the lives of the women around her. I’m less fond of her sisters — Fleurette is flighty as always, and Norma and her pigeon-obsession are a bit much to take — but their family dynamics are always fun.

As with the previous four books, I listened to the audiobook version, becuase the narrator is so gifted when it comes to portraying the sisters and the various other characters. As I mentioned in my reviews of the other audiobooks, she makes each character come alive, and as a listener, I really got the essence of each character’s personality through Chrsitina Moore’s presentation.

The author’s notes at the end of the book are essential reading (as they are in all of the Kopp Sisters books). Amy Stewart provides the historical context, explains her research, and makes clear which parts of her story are from the record and which are her invention. It’s fascinating to see how she so skillfully weaves together fact and fiction, and really remarkable to learn just how much of these women’s lives actually happened.

And as I’ve said in each review I’ve written for the books in this series:

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Kopp Sisters books yet, start with Girl Waits With Gun, and then keep going!

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The details:

Title: Kopp Sisters on the March
Author: Amy Stewart
Narrator: Christina Moore
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: September 17, 2019
Audiobook length: 10 hours, 26 minutes
Printed book length: 355 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Audible download (purchased); ARC from the author

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Aubiobook Review: Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart

 

Trailblazing Constance’s hard-won job as deputy sheriff is on the line in Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, the fourth installment of Amy Stewart’s Kopp Sisters series.

After a year on the job, New Jersey’s first female deputy sheriff has collared criminals, demanded justice for wronged women, and gained notoriety nationwide for her exploits. But on one stormy night, everything falls apart.

While transporting a woman to an insane asylum, Deputy Kopp discovers something deeply troubling about her story. Before she can investigate, another inmate bound for the asylum breaks free and tries to escape.

In both cases, Constance runs instinctively toward justice. But the fall of 1916 is a high-stakes election year, and any move she makes could jeopardize Sheriff Heath’s future–and her own. Although Constance is not on the ballot, her controversial career makes her the target of political attacks.

With wit and verve, book-club favorite Amy Stewart brilliantly conjures the life and times of the real Constance Kopp to give us this “unforgettable, not-to-be messed-with heroine” (Marie Claire) under fire in Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit.

My Thoughts:

Four books in, the Kopp Sisters series is going strong! Constance Kopp is an independent, strong, career woman — at a time when these were not considered desirable attributes for a female. She works as a deputy sheriff at the Hackensack jail, where she essentially does double duty, both capturing criminals and carrying out deputy funtions, and serving as the jail’s matron for female inmates, whom she views as her charges.

Both Sheriff Heath — a fair-minded man who treats Constance as a colleague and professional, a rarity in the law-enforcement world — and Constance believe in prison reform, the idea that treating prisoners as people with options for redemption will actually lead to less crime overall. Constance takes a particular interest in the young women who often find themselves incarcerated for being wayward or otherwise uncontrollable, working with a sympathetic judge to get them released on probation, under her supervision, and finding them safe living situations, opportunities for decent work, and the chance to educate themselves and improve their lives.

All this is threatened by the 1916 elections. Sheriff Heath has termed out of his role and is running for Congress, and the sheriff’s position is hotly contested beween a man who detests Constance and a man who sees her as a cute affectation. In describing the tone of the campaign, author Amy Stewart adeptly shows how dirty politics isn’t new to today’s political climate. Sheriff Heath, perhaps naively, believes that elections can be won or lost on the merits of a candidate:

“Miss Kopp, Don’t you see that it’s better for us this way? He’s putting all his worst qualities right out on display for the public to see. You notice that he hasn’t said a word about what a sheriff’s actual duties might be, or why he’s best qualified to carry them out. A man who does nothing but cast out hate and blame couldn’t possibly be elected to office.”

If only.

As always, Constance Kopp — who is a real person, and whose history Amy Stewart draws upon for the events of the novel — is a stunningly strong, honest, and dedicated woman. She believes in her purpose, and constantly puts her own interests second to her duty to the public and to her inmates. In Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, we spend a bit less time with Constance’s sisters Norma and Fleurette, who feature much more prominently in earlier books. Still, their home life and interesting personality dynamics are always entertaining to read about.

By the end of the novel, circumstances have changed dramatically for the Kopp sisters, and it would appear that their lives are about to enter an entirely new phase. And while I’m sad to see the partnership between Constance and Sheriff Heath reach an ending of sorts for the moment, I’m still as invested as ever in these people and their lives, and can’t wait to see where they go and what they do next.

I’ll wrap up by repeating almost exactly what I wrote at the end of my review for the 3rd book, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions

A final note: I listened to the audiobook, and it’s wonderful! Narrator Christina Moore has a gift when it comes to these characters, making each sister distinct, as well as the rest of the characters, whether working class New Jersey girls or glad-handing politicians or downtrodden housewives. Their voices are sharp and funny and full of personality, just like Amy Stewart’s characters themselves.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Kopp Sisters books yet, start with Girl Waits With Gun, and then keep going!

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The details:

Title: Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit
Author: Amy Stewart
Narrator: Christina Moore
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: September 11, 2018
Audiobook length: 8 hours, 53 minutes
Printed book length: 320 pages
Genre: Detective story/historical fiction
Source: Audible download (purchased); ARC from the author

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