While en route from their farm to town in their horse-drawn carriage, three sisters are crashed into by a group of men in a motorcar. The men look like a bunch of disreputable toughs, but that doesn’t dissuade Constance Kopp from asserting her rights and demanding to be paid damages. Little does she know that the reckless driver is Henry Kaufman, a wealthy but somewhat deranged mill owner, and that his friends are in the Mafia. But even when she finds out, she refuses to back down from demanding what she is rightfully owed. The situation escalates into blackmail and violent threats, as Constance stands firm and seeks to protect herself and her sisters, while remaining independent.
The book is based on a true story – Kopp and Kaufman really did have their legal battle; Kopp really was the victim of threats and harassment, and she really did become one of the first American female police deputies. Amy Stewart has provided a fascinating archive of photos and newspaper articles about these characters on her website: http://www.amystewart.com/characters/
However, I felt that the book draws out a small story a bit too much. If it had been about half the length, I would’ve loved it. But the repeated incidents of confrontation and harassment began to feel a bit repetitive, and the fictional subplot involving a kidnapped illegitimate child felt like filler material. It’s still a fascinating glimpse into life in 1914 New Jersey.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.