Green Grow The Victims
Third in the Hilda Johansson mystery series set in South Bend, Indiana in 1902, this story unfolds within the context of a county fair, the coal mine strikes and local politics. The flavours of the times are subtly hinted at with details of clothing or customs, which makes it easy for the reader to slip in that era. Hilda, a live-in maid in Studebaker’s mansion, gets embroiled in the hunt for her friend Patrick’s uncle, suspected of killing his political opponent. The set-up allows the author to explore the differences, similarities, suspicions and clashes between and within races (Swedish/Irish/Polish) and religions (Methodists/Catholics) through a mild Romeo and Juliet scenario where family takes precedence over individual preferences.
The characters and their various lifestyles are well-defined, although the temperaments do seem uniformly centered around tempers flaring or being curbed. It requires a stretch of the believability factor to accept that anyone would turn to a maid to solve a murder, but Hilda–wilful and independent of thought while remaining a woman of her times–does fill the role well. The plot is satisfactory, even if it involves lucky hunches, and unfolds in a lively manner. This is a good entry in a nice cosy series, which I suspect should be read in order to make Hilda’s involvement more plausible.