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by Jeanne M. Dams
Perseverance Press, September 2005
246 pages
ISBN: 1880284790

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Hilda Johansson returns for a fifth adventure in CRIMSON SNOW, which is based on of a real murder perpetrated in 1904. Sophie Jacobs, a teacher especially beloved of Hilda's brother Erik, has disappeared. Eric begs Hilda to take time off from her housemaid duties to find her, a request that is soon echoed by Hilda's employer when the missing woman is found bludgeoned to death and one of his friends is implicated.

This isn't the only mystery in town, either. Who was the mysterious person who left the hotel the night of the murder without paying, and why did one of the hotel's maids disappear at the same time? Who left the message of blank sheets of paper? And what is the temporary butler doing searching Colonel Studebaker's safe?

At the same time, Hilda has some hard personal decisions to make. Her beau Patrick has come into prospects, making it possible for them to marry. But that would mean not only crossing the cultural lines between the Swedish immigrants and the Irish ones, it also means dealing with religious and class barriers as well. Are those barriers high enough to prevent their union?

CRIMSON SNOW is at its best when outlining tensions like these. The various clashes of the turn of the last century really come alive as Hilda views newfangled fads like the horseless carriage, worries over the chasm between Swedish Lutherans and Irish Catholics, and contemplates being able to become the social equal of the ladies she been serving. Adding to the historical flavor are the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, from manuals in use at the time or from the newspaper coverage of the real murder.

Unfortunately, the mystery part is much weaker. Hampered by her job and her gender (and in some cases, a language barrier) Hilda is not in a position to make great strides of detection. Clues are doled out sparingly with a frustrating lack of discussion with many relevant witnesses and in one shocking lapse, the prime suspect mentions a vital fact after the crime has been solved.

If you like reading leisurely books with a detailed historical background you'll love CRIMSON SNOW. If you judge your mysteries by your ability to beat the detective at their own game, this isn't the series for you.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, February 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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