Young Swedish immigrant Hilda Johannson is enjoying life in South Bend, Indiana at the turn of the century. She has a good job as a housemaid for the Studebaker family and even a boyfriend, firefighter Patrick Cavanaugh.

One day returning from an outing with Patrick, Hilda sees what looks like trash lying on the Studebaker property. At closer look, they find its the body of Miss Harper, a missionary recently returned from China and sister to powerful Judge Harper, the Studebaker familys neighbor.

Hilda is curious, but she is ordered by the family butler to stay out of the investigation. When she finds suspicion rests on a visiting Chinese citizen and knowing that immigrants are frequently treated unfairly in the United States, Hilda cannot help investigating on her own. What she discovers shocks and terrifies her for she realizes that as a servant no one will believe herexcept the killer.

DEATH IN LACQUER RED is a traditional mystery that presents a fascinating look at servant life in turn-of-the-century America. Award-winning author Dams, who lives in South Bend, has researched the era well and it shows. Hilda is a winning heroine and I look forward to more of her adventures as she explores life in America. (July, 225 pp., $22.95

Reviewed by: 
Toby Bromberg