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Crimson Snow: A Hilda Johansson Mystery    by Jeanne M. Dams order for
Crimson Snow
by Jeanne M. Dams
Order:  USA  Can
Perseverance Press, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This is the fifth in the Hilda Johannson mystery series. The setting is South Bend, Indiana in January of 1904. Hilda is a housemaid to the prominent Studebaker family. When a popular schoolteacher is murdered, Hilda is coaxed to find her murderer by her younger brother Erik, who was a student of the dead teacher.

The search for the killer leads Hilda around South Bend and beyond. As she investigates, we are given more than a glimpse of what life was like in those times for the working masses and for the privileged. The clothes, the food, and the furnishing of homes bring that era into the reader's own home. It's easy to understand their fear of gaslights. I can remember my own mother telling me that her mother was afraid of the telephone and refused to answer it. How the new motorcar must have disconcerted the populace. The unpaved streets and constant mud and/or dust were a part of life then. The demands on servants are the hardest to come to terms with. My grandmother had a daily maid, a cook, a washerwoman and a seamstress. And my grandparents were not wealthy people. How little their employees must have been paid.

The plight of the people of South Bend was similar to that experienced elsewhere in North America. Child labor, disease, prostitution, literacy, class differences all find a place in Crimson Snow woven cleverly into the plot so that the reader isn't aware of being educated on times gone by. And the mystery of the death of the schoolteacher escalates as Hilda braves freezing weather and danger to bring the culprit to justice. This is a satisfying tale from a skilled writer.

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