Dear Miss Kopp is the sixth book in the Kopp Sisters series by Amy Stewart, and I was thrilled to receive an advanced review copy from NetGalley. This is one of my favorite historical series, and if you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend picking up the first book, Girl Waits With Gun.
What makes this series so good? I love historical fiction that’s well researched and draws upon real life events. Even better, this series is about an actual family and other real-life personalities of the time. Not everything in this series is true, of course, but Stewart does an excellent job explaining which events actually happened and which have been adapted for the story. For example, sometimes she’ll alter true-to-life events so that her main characters experience them, or so characters come in contact with each other who might not have known each other in real life. Much of her writing incorporates actual letters and newspaper articles.
I love the characters of the three sisters, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette. As the series goes on, you feel like they’re your own family. Constance is the most developed of the three, particularly in the first four books, but Fleurette plays an increasing role as she grows into adulthood. Norma is perhaps more of a side character, but we all know someone like her: stubborn, brilliant (in her own way), caring, but difficult to get along with.
Most importantly, Stewart draws a compelling picture of the lives of women in the 1910s through World War I (and there is more to come). I love the way she introduces real laws and practices of the time, bringing awareness to terrible practices like women being thrown into prisons and institutions just for running away or being seen with a man. What the “morality police” do to women in these times is truly appalling (though we haven’t made nearly as much progress today as I wish we had). Stewart also highlights truly courageous women of the time, and the ways that women made inroads into different professions, like law enforcement, and often brought something to those professions that men couldn’t.
If you haven’t read the series, I recommend you stop reading this review and pick up the first book.
Book Six, Dear Miss Kopp, is a departure from the previous books; it’s entirely written in the form of letters between the sisters, their friends, and their military/government colleagues. It’s 1918 and the U.S. has gone to war, and each of the sisters is playing a part. Norma is in France to carry out her carrier pigeon system. She’s living in a small village, doing her best to make sure her pigeons are used to support the war effort, in the face of much disbelief and condescension from the military commanders. Constance works as a lady investigator for what will become the FBI, searching for spies and saboteurs on U.S. soil. Fleurette is traveling with a performance troupe, visiting U.S. army camps of soldiers waiting to be sent to the front.
I’m always interested in books that show different sides of war, both at home and abroad, and this book does exactly that. Stewart writes about things like food shortages, medical treatment, and the kinds of keepsakes that the soldiers treasure going into war. This book examines how World War I impacted law enforcement at home, focusing on a league of private citizens who took it on themselves to investigate potential spies and who threw women in prison with no due process simply for “distracting” soldier recruits.
The only downside to this particular book is that it focuses less on developing the characters of the sisters. It’s much more plot-driven than the previous books. Also, there isn’t one main storyline, it’s more a series of incidents. So this one won’t be my favorite in the series (plus I miss Sheriff Heath), but it’s still very good, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I expect the next book will focus more on the influenza epidemic and maybe suffrage. I also wonder if Stewart is going to explore Constance’s relationship with Fleurette more than she has in the last few books.
As with her other books, I love Stewart’s blend of wit, humor, and compassion. There’s no word when the next book will be out, but I’ll be looking forward to it.
Note: I received a complimentary advanced review copy from NetGalley and publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books. This book was released January 12, 2021.