After reading GIRL WAITS WITH GUN, a little looking back was required, as the first reaction was that of disappointment. Billed as being based on theAfter reading GIRL WAITS WITH GUN, a little looking back was required, as the first reaction was that of disappointment. Billed as being based on the forgotten true story of America's first female deputy sheriff, perhaps this reader was expecting more of the "sheriffing" aspects.
GIRL WAITS WITH GUN is the story of three sisters, raised in poverty, living a self-contained, quiet and hard-working life on the family farm, until the day they are involved in an accident between their horse-drawn buggy and a very early motor vehicle driven by a local silk factory owner. A dispute between them over damages quickly escalates when Constance confronts the over-privileged, connected, and utterly barking mad Henry Kaufman resulting in escalating threats, intimidation, and blackmail from Kaufman and his coterie of Mafia friends.
There's something very worthy about the way that Constance steps in to defend her family - as the blurb puts it, in a way that women in 1914 would not have dared. Although to be honest you have to wonder how many women did just that and simply never got mentioned, reported, or offered a ground-breaking job at the end of it all. The fact that Kaufman and his cronies got away with the levels of intimidation and appalling behaviour on the other hand is believable although not well served by the amount of repetition. Possibly designed to make the threat seem overwhelming, but oddly watering it down to a "here we go again" almost cartoonish feeling, unassisted by the sheer over-the-topness of the Kaufman character.
There's also a lot of what feels like filler, with a kidnapped child sub-plot and an obsession with reporting the colours, clothes and wafflings of the simpering, annoying younger sister; the jolly hockey sticks portrayal of the middle sister who is doing most of the keeping the sisters alive on a day to day basis and the stoic acceptance of her role as defender of the family of the eldest sister. Needless to say the stereotypes were obvious, to say nothing of a tendency to coyness when it comes to the "family scandal" particularly as any reader desperately searching for mystery in all of this will have little difficulty in solving that one. Of course it could be that there's a sense of humour at play here that this reader simply didn't get - but I found the worthiness of Constance wearying, the younger sister strangulation inducing and the ever-present spectre of the now deceased mother tedious and the limitations of the time period too conveniently deployed or disregarded.
Upon considerable reflection, my disappointment in this novel initially came from the slowness in getting to the crux of Kopp's role as first female deputy sheriff. That was mightily exacerbated by a sense of frustration over too much repetition and too many ancillary bits and pieces that just simply didn't hold interest or contribute to understanding her motivation. That reflection time has also clearly indicated that this reader missed something - be it a sense of humour, be it an exploration of the time, be it a commentary on the position of women in that period of history. Maybe if you're comfortable with less mystery, and more of that sort of historical lifestyle exploration, GIRL WAITS WITH GUN would be a more satisfying read.