A BLUE CHRISTMAS FOR HILDA JOHANSSON?
Hilda Johansson Cavanaugh finds herself caught between the world of her past as a housemaid and her new role as a wealthy wife in Agatha-winner Dams's delightful sixth mystery set in early 20th-century South Bend, Indiana. Publishers Weekly (6/30/08)
Jeanne Dams says, As a lifelong resident of South Bend, Indiana, Im particularly interested in the immigrants who helped shape my city and their struggles to come to terms with life in a new country that was not always friendly. The cover of Indigo Christmas illustrates a Swedish holiday custom (St. Lucys Day) that initially seems alien to Hilda Johanssons Irish husband, but then draws him into a closer relationship with her family. However, the majority of society in Hildas South Bend resort to xenophobia and prejudice toward whatever immigrant person or group crosses their path. Hilda comes to realize that the heart of all prejudice is seeing a stereotype rather than an individual in other people, e.g. dumb Swede, drunken Irish, and even tyrannical butler.
Hilda, the new Mrs. Cavanaugh, must also struggle with other issues: As a wealthy merchants wife, she is now part of the upper-middle class she used to serve. People are bowing to Hilda to whom she used to curtsey, but they dont befriend her. She cant get used to being waited on, and her old servant friends now distrust her. In the hard times of 1904, the poor are hit the hardest. Hilda tries to help the unemployed youth of South Bend by forming a Boys Club (modeled after Jane Addamss work at Hull House, founded in 1888 in Chicago). As Kirkus Reviews said of an earlier Hilda Johansson book, Damss more heavy-handed historical brethren would do well to emulate her light touch.
Jeanne M. Dams is the Agatha-winning and Macavity-nominated author of the popular Dorothy Martin series, as well as five previous books in the Hilda Johansson historical series. She lives in South Bend, Indiana, with her husband.