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By the author of the Dorothy Martin mysteries.
What is the Hilda Johansson series about?
Coming from the American author Jeane M. Dams, the Hilda Johansson series is a cozy historical murder mystery series.
The series is about young Hilda Johansson, a Swedish housemaid to the fabulously wealthy Studebaker family in South Bend, Indiana. Set at the beginning of the 20th century, the books mix history and murder mysteries as Hilda has to turn sleuth to uncover the truth but also has to deal with what it was to be an immigrant in America more than a century ago.
The series has been described as Downton Abbey with murder mysteries.
How to read the Hilda Johansson Books in Order:
Every book in the Hilda Johansson series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Death in Lacquer Red (1999) – The year is 1900 and Hilda Johansson is a young Swedish woman working in the South Bend, Indiana, home of the Studebaker family. She faces the typical problems of an immigrant and the demands of a job that is both exhausting and exhilarating. Her struggle to be a good servant is compounded when she discovers, on the Studebaker estate, the body of a woman just returned from missionary work in China. Everyone has a theory. Everyone wants Hilda to stay out of things that don’t concern her. But is it possible that she’s the only one who can see what the others refuse to even acknowledge?
- Red, White, and Blue Murder (2000) – The Studebaker household is in turmoil; the news that President McKinley has been assassinated is more than anyone can stand. South Bend, Indiana is not a hotbed of anarchist activity, but something is clearly going on. When McKinley’s death is blamed on foreign-born anarchists, Hilda Johansson, a recent immigrant, is concerned that fellow immigrants might be swept up in a wave of xenophobia. Despite orders to mind her own business, she sets out to discover exactly what is happening, no matter what it might cost her.
- Green Grow the Victims (2001) – When the coal mine strikes of 1902 spill into places that would be considered immune to such strife, a South Bend politician turns up murdered, and Patrick Malloy’s uncle Dan has gone missing and become the prime suspect, the Malloy family asks Hilda Johansson to put her talents to work for them.
- Silence is Golden (2002) – A maid in the Studebaker household in South Bend, Indiana, Hilda Johansson is delighted by her reunion with her family, despite her mother’s disapproval of her relationship with Irish Catholic Patrick Cavanaugh and her brother Eric’s problems, but when one of Eric’s friends turns up badly beaten, Hilda turns sleuth to uncover the truth, in a turn-of-the-century mystery.
- Crimson Snow (2005) – Based on a 1904 unsolved murder case, Crimson Snow weaves immigrant life, class and ethnic tensions into a taut drama centered around the Studebaker mansion in South Bend, Indiana. Hilda Johansson, a Studebaker housemaid, doesnt want to look into the murder of her brothers sixth-grade teacher. She leads a demanding life, and her Irish sweetheart is pressing her for marriage. But when an influential attorney urges her to clear his name, she must involve herself in a dangerous web of scandal and intrigue. Mystery and history buffs alike will welcome this new entry from an ever-captivating author who effortlessly weaves disparate threads through her plots, from child labor, literacy, prostitution, class, the history of the automobile and the Pinkertons.
- Indigo Christmas (2008) – Hilda Johansson is now married and living a well-to-do life with her new husband. But her Swedish family doesn’t get along with his Irish relations. She’s having trouble finding friends, since she no longer fits into her old world and isn’t accepted in the new one. Just before Christmas, when the husband of her sole remaining friend is accused of theft, arson, and murder, Hilda has to find new ways of investigating a crime that seems to make no sense. In the hard economic times of 1904 with bank failures weekly, Hilda tries to aid the unemployed youth of South Bend by helping to form a Boys’ Club modeled after Hull House in Chicago. And she also enlists some of them as “Baker Street Irregulars” in her mystery investigation, giving the reader a vivid sense of the city and street life of the times.
- Murder in Burnt Orange (2011) – It’s a heat wave in more ways than one in the summer of 1905, as strikes, arson, and train wrecks threaten the fabric of civilized society in South Bend, Indiana. In the tumultuous first years of the twentieth century, anarchy seems to rule, with the assassination of an American president and labor unrest like the Anthracite Coal Strike bringing misery to millions. How can a Swedish immigrant like Hilda Johanssson, formerly a housemaid and now pregnant with her first child, possibly affect these conditions? Making deductions worthy of Sherlock Holmes ― and using her own “Baker Street Irregulars” ― Hilda reognizes a pattern to the disturbing events. No one thinks she’ll actually be able to solve matters, especially since custom forbids her even leaving the house. But they reckon without Hilda’s quick mind and stubborn determination to see the job through ― even when the crime wave turns into murder, and touches her nearest and dearest.
What should you read if you like the Hilda Johansson novels?
If you like reading Jeanne M. Dams’ Hilda Johansson stories, you may be interested in The Gaslight Mystery series, the Veronica Speedwell series, A Girl Friday Mystery Series…This article was last updated on May 18, 2023.