Third in Dams’s series (Death in Lacquer Red, 1999, etc.) featuring Swedish housemaid-sleuth Hilda Johansson, still working, in 1902, for the Studebaker family, headed by Colonel George Studebaker, ensconced in their South Bend mansion. Hilda’s Irish friend Patrick Cavanaugh lives in South Bend too, as does his uncle Daniel Malloy, a Democrat running for a local council seat against Republican John Bishop. One day, in the middle of a visit to the local county fair, Patrick and Hilda are interrupted by Malloy’s son Clancy, frantic because Bishop has been found beaten to death, evidently by Daniel’s shillelagh, and Daniel himself has disappeared. Daniel’s dignified wife, aware of Hilda’s previous successful forays, sends Colonel George and a pair of pillars of the local Irish community to ask her help (and even offer a small emolument) in finding Daniel. Find him Hilda does, barely alive but claiming innocence in the murder of Bishop. Finding that killer will be a much harder task for the starchy heroine—one that nearly costs her life before it’s over.
The author’s evocation of the tensions between newly arrived immigrants with different lifestyles, languages, and religions adds a lively element to the mundane plotting. And Hilda continues to charm in her modest way. Unriveting entertainment that’s easy to take.