Indigo Christmas, Jeanne M. Dams, Perseverance Press, $14.95.
Jeanne Dams' historical mysteries set in 1904 South Bend, Indiana, are among my favorites in this subgenre. Dams is a brisk writer who has created, in Hilda Johansson, a memorable and believable character that I enjoy encountering in each book. In the last outing, Crimson Snow, I wasn't sure there would be another book, because Hilda had at last married her beau, policeman Patrick Cavanaugh. The difficulties facing the two were / are many — Patrick is Irish catholic, Hilda is a Swede only recently come to America to work as a maid in the home of the wealthy Studebaker family. In this latest book, Hilda, now Mrs. Cavanaugh, has seen a huge life change beyond marriage — her husband has become a partner in the family dry goods store, which means a considerable rise in status, including, awkwardly for the now former maid Hilda, servants of her own.
Still on the canvas in this book is Hilda's former co-worker and best friend, Norah, who, heavily pregnant and worried about her husband, ends up having her baby in Hilda's home. Norah's worries about her husband, Sean, stem from the belief of the police that he is responsible for the death in a barn fire of a handyman. This is based mostly on the fact that Sean had found an empty and unidentified wallet which he had begun to use as his own. The police refuse to believe it was empty. To make matters worse, Sean has also lost his job, most of this needing to be kept from Norah who is very weak after the birth of her baby. All Hilda can do to help, of course, is to prove Sean's innocence, which she sets about doing utilizing the network of young boys she knows thanks to her brother Erik.
At the same time, Hilda has volunteered to help organize a Christmas party for the poor boys in town, many of whom will be grateful for a pair of mittens and a sandwich. This organization necessarily involves middle class matrons like Hilda herself — the problem is, Hilda still feels like a servant, and much of this novel involves her struggle to find a comfortable place for herself in the new society she has almost unwillingly joined. The believable nuances of class and attitude are what makes this series a stand out, as well as the unusual setting of South Bend, Indiana. It turns out that, for a jaded mystery reader, it's not London that's exotic, but plain old South Bend. Luckily for Ms. Dams, she lives there herself, and has plenty of handy research material at hand. And of course the capable Hilda manages to once again solve the case. This book is a pleasant delight.
To browse more reviews, use the navigation links at the top of the page.