This was my favorite of the three thus far, and oddly, it's because there really wasn't any single plot that stretched from beginning to end. In fact, it's a stretch to call it a mystery.
Some background for those unfamiliar with the books: This series is based on the life of Constance Kopp, one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the United States, and the first to be granted a shield, gun, authority to apprehend, and be paid the same wage as her male counterparts (likely the last one too, on that score). Amy Stewart uses historically accurate events and characters, with as many details as she can find, then fictionalises the spaces in between. At the end of each book, she includes a detailed accounting of what is factual and what is fictional, along with a detailed list of notes and sources.
While the first two books had, more or less, a single story line as the focus, ...Midnight Confessions is more a collection of smaller stories, each centered on a real person and event, that Stewart has woven together into a cohesive narrative.
All of these smaller stories have a single theme: the very real vulnerabilities women had, and the rights they didn't. We're all vaguely aware that society really frowned upon "loose morals" – a state unique to women, as men weren't expected to have any morals – and we've all made jokes about the "morality police", but when you read about a woman over 18 who is arrested because she left home to move into a strict, all-female boarding house to work in a powder factory so she could contribute to the war effort...well we've certainly come a long way in 100 years. Waywardness this was called - and guess who brought the charges against her? Her mother.
Anyway, there are a few characters in this book that all have to face this lack of agency, whether they deserve the charges against them or not. (Deserve, as in guilty or innocent of the charges, not morally deserving.) All of their stories play out over the course of the book, but there's no sense of tension or climax. Some might find that disappointing, but it worked really well for me; it kept the pace snappy, and I didn't feel like Stewart was manufacturing drama for the sake of drama. I was able to enjoy and appreciate these women's stories on their own merit; if she'd tried to twist them and manipulate them to create some fictional plot, I doubt I'd have liked the book half as much.
She ends the book with an election year just beginning and an inevitable shake-up in the local politics. I'm looking forward to the next book, scheduled for September, to see what happens to Constance and Sheriff Heath.
This book works for the Kill Your Darlings game card COD: shot with an arrow. It's written by an American woman.