Revisiting the early 20th century with Kopp sisters

“Lady Cop Makes Trouble” by Amy Stewart. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 320 pages.

Here’s another fun story about the real-life Kopp sisters of Hackensack, N.J., centering on Constance Kopp and her ambition for something beyond the approved careers for women in the early 20th century.

Constance is happy with the deputy’s badge she earned in the first book, “Girl Waits With Gun,” until she is demoted to jail matron while the sheriff mulls over possible legal challenges to employing a female deputy. When a prisoner escapes on her watch, she knows that badge is gone forever unless she can track and recover him.

Amy Stewart does a great job of sticking to the sensibilities of the time, when a woman with Constance’s ambitions was an anomaly. For the reader it’s very like looking out the windows of a time machine; Stewart avoids slipping into archaic language even as she vividly describes street life in New York in 1915.

“The Dry” by Jane Harper, Flatiron Books, 336 pages.

Set in an Australian farm town during a drought, “The Dry” uses aridity as a backdrop, a symbol and even the assumed catalyst for a murder-suicide.

The book opens with a funeral which has drawn Aaron Falk back to the hometown he and his father fled under suspicion in his teen years. A girl Aaron was dating drowned in a river that has dried up now, and the town’s suspicion of him has similarly desiccated but not disappeared. After the funeral for Aaron’s oldest friend Luke, who appears to have shot his wife and child and then turned the gun on himself, Luke’s father asks Aaron to stay on in town and try to lay his fears to rest that the death all those years ago was Luke’s doing and that his father should have known he was capable of such a crime.

It’s a debut novel and a good read that I think you’ll be hearing a lot about.

“No Echo” by Anne Holt. Scribner, 336 pages.

I find Anne Holt’s books more relatable than others in the Scandinavian genre. They bear the marks of translation from another language and culture, but the scene-setting and dialogue are more comfortable to my American ear.

This is the sixth Hanne Wilhelmsen novel. Hanne is in mourning when the book opens, having retreated to a convent in Italy after the death of her partner Cecilie.

When she returns to Oslo, she finds an investigation going off the rails. A celebrity chef has been stabbed on the rear steps of police headquarters and the homicide team is awash in strange clues that refuse to fit together rationally: an expensive knife, signs of a drug overdose, a showroom of an apartment that shows little sign of real habitation, and a squirrelly list of suspects. In and around the police procedural we also learn plenty about the detectives’ messy private lives, not least Hanne’s, especially after she stashes an important witness in her home instead of bringing her in.