For every book we read during the book club, one of our book club members will write a review. This way anyone who couldn’t be there, can still join in with the fun! Roy den Boer is taking over as our main reviewer for the book club books, judging all that we have picked.
My enjoyment of Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits With Gun should really be rendered as a line graph that shows the line starting pretty high and slowly going down, down, down. At first I was rather enjoying the exploits of Constance Kopp and her sisters. New York in the ‘teens is rendered with loving detail. The novel opens with in a flurry. There’s a car crash, there’s an altercation, characters are established. Constance Kopp is a tough lady out looking to get justice from a couple of goons. This set up is really quite nicely done. Other plot threads are introduced over the next part. But around the midway point everything seems to grind to a halt. The plot resolves itself slowly, but the liveliness dissipates throughout the novel.
My reading of the novel required a continual expectation adjustment. I went in expecting a somewhat serious historical novel. There’s something about the little blurbs and things that painted the picture of a novel that would really present the lost story of New York’s first female deputy. A lot of work was made of the historical research, and I have no reason to doubt it’s in here but it just doesn’t feel like one of those historical fiction novels. Pretty quickly, in fact, I felt the novel had different intentions, rather it presented a rather fluffy mystery with a somewhat comic tone.
I was fine with this lower brow approach, but then, around the halfway point, it became clear that the book wasn’t really interested in delivering on that either. The plot wasn’t twisting or turning. It felt very true to some real life event, and truth is very often less interesting than fiction. But the anticlimactic ending was the real kicker. I’m sure Amy Stewart had very little control over the marketing, but when you sell the book as the story of “one of the nation’s first female deputies” it’s a bit of a let down if the end of your book is that she becomes a deputy. Yeah, I was kind of expecting that.
As I took my seat at the book club I was still figuring out my feelings on the book. I’d read the book in fits and starts and the bulk of it I had ploughed through late to get done in time. A lot of positive feelings from the early parts were still clouding my judgment. I was pretty sure that I liked it alright. It wasn’t much, but it was fun enough. There was enough good stuff, and there really is good stuff in here. The writing is crisp, the period detail is nice, the flashbacks to certain events in the childhood of the sisters is really intriguing. But listening to other people criticize the book it became clear that the good stuff really wasn’t enough. I’m not sure where the book falters. Is it trying to stick to the facts to a fault? Did Amy Stewart actively avoid tension and excitement to be more literary? I’m not sure. I suppose I’d have to read the upcoming sequel Lady Cop Makes Trouble to figure that out. As it stands I’m not really sure I’m going to be doing that.