I am always excited when Kathleen Ernst drops by for a visit. Her character Chloe Ellefson doesn’t live too far away from me. I love reading stories about places I have actually visited.
You may have heard of “Midwestern Nice.” It’s real. I’ve met lots of really nice people since moving to Wisconsin in 1982.
That said, I’m finding that the Midwest provides some awesome settings for murder mysteries.
As a former museum curator, one of my goals for the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series involves introducing readers to special places. The first four books in the series showcased a huge open air museum called Old World Wisconsin, the Swiss-American community of New Glarus, Lake Michigan’s oldest lighthouse, and Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Iowa.
And my new book, Tradition of Deceit, features two fascinating settings. The book is set in 1983, when the Minnesota Historical Society’s fabulous Mill City Museum was only a dream. Chloe, my protagonist, visits to help create an interpretive plan for the envisioned site. Imagine an enormous abandoned flour mill full of old equipment—a magnet for kids craving adventure, homeless citizens, and people wanting to stay out of sight. It’s spooky. And it provides lots of opportunities for murder.
It’s also fascinating. The Washburn A Mill was the world’s largest flour mill when it was completed in 1874. For the first time in history, the production of a basic food item was industrialized. And I’m willing to bet that the mill has touched your life directly. The Washburn A Mill gave us Gold Medal Flour and Betty Crocker cookbooks. After years of growth and mergers, General Mills became owner.
Meanwhile Roelke McKenna, Chloe’s significant other, is drawn into a murder investigation in Milwaukee’s Old South Side neighborhood. The area is densely populated and culturally rich, home to many Polish-American families. They built the magnificent Basilica of St. Josaphat, and created a lovely urban park honoring a famous Polish general. Right down the street is a cemetery so old and significant that it’s on the Register of Historic Places.
It was great fun to write a book that entwines the industrial and cultural heritage of two cities, in two states. In the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, the past is always present!
Someone asked me recently if I would ever set a Chloe book at a “major” historic site like Colonial Williamsburg or Plimoth Plantation. Perhaps one day, but for now, I’m having too much fun exploring historic sites in my own regional neighborhood. Chloe will remain employed at Old World Wisconsin, although some mysteries will take her across state lines.
I try hard to make the sites and museums that Chloe explores real and essential to the plot. My website offers lots of resources to help readers explore the places featured in each book, including photographs, interactive maps, and tour guides. I’m delighted when readers tell me that reading one of the Chloe Ellefson mysteries inspired them to visit the relevant site.
Has a book ever prompted you to make a trip? What are some of your favorite historic places? I’m taking notes!
About Kathleen Ernst
Tradition of Deceit is Kathleen Ernst’s thirtieth book. In addition to the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites series, she has written many books for American Girl, including nine about the historical character she created, Caroline Abbott. Over 1.5 million copies of Kathleen’s titles have been sold. The Chloe series has earned a LOVEY Award for Best Traditional Mystery, and several of her mysteries for young readers have been finalists for Edgar or Agatha awards.
Tradition of Deceit
(A Chloe Ellefson Mystery)
5th Book in Series
Published by MIDNIGHT INK (November 8, 2014)
Trade Paperback: 360 pages
E-Book File Size: 3170 KB
Curator and occasional sleuth Chloe Ellefson is off to Minneapolis to help her friend Ariel with a monumental task. Ariel must write a proposal for a controversial and expensive restoration project: convert an abandoned flour mill, currently used as shelter by homeless people, into a museum. When a dead body is found stuffed into a grain chute, Chloe’s attention turns from milling to murder.
Back in Milwaukee, Chloe’s love interest Roelke has been slammed with the news that a fellow officer was shot and killed while on duty. Sifting through clues from both past and present, Chloe and Roelke discover dangerous secrets that put their lives—and their trust in each other—at risk.
Wow, this was such a fascinating read I feel as if I devoured it.
What seems as a ordinary date turns Chloe’s and Roelke’s lives and relationship inside out and upside down. They attend the wedding of one a Roelke’s cop buddies and Chloe just feels like she doesn’t fit in. She takes off the next day to help a friend in Minneapolis questioning her whole relationship with Roelke. Then Roelke gets a phone call telling him his friend and former partner was shot and killed while on duty. He throws himself into the investigation and keeps at it even when he is told to back off. Chloe barely gets into Minneapolis and she gets wrapped up in a murder investigation herself. She really could use Roelke’s help but after the death of his friend he has basically shut her out of his life. It seems “deceit” is everywhere.
Ernst intricately meshes these stories together along with a story from the past that drew me right in. It was not only the murder mysteries that captivated me but the secrets of our main characters as well. We really get to know more about Roelke and Chloe has to face the reality of being in love with a police officer. The story from the past gives us a look back at immigrants that had come to the area in hopes of a better life. The main story lines also look at the homeless and what they endure. She also shines a light on domestic violence.
The main part of the story takes place in the early 1980’s so there are no cell phones or internet which adds its own dynamic to the story. Research and crime investigation is done with old fashioned footwork and checking out books and written documents. Police officers don’t have radios hooked to their collars and need to check in via call stations while they are out “walking their beat” and landlines are the way to get in touch with your family and friends, no texting, emails or quick calls. Cases are not solved quickly as all the investigative technology we now take for granted has even been invented yet. The research Chloe is helping with is also done with document research and stories that have been told and retold over the years.
I think this is the best book so far in this series. The characters continue to grow and evolve and the settings were interesting and the topics are still relevant today as the United States looks at immigration reform and the plight of the homeless is still a major problem today. Domestic violence has been around forever and we see that in that story here as well. Ernst presents all topics in a fictional way that while entertaining to read also makes you think. We learn a little history along the way too.
This definitely deserves more than 5 stars!
From Kathleen Ernst
I’m grateful to Dollycas for giving me the opportunity to celebrate publication of Tradition of Deceit: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery here on Escape with Dollycas Into A Good Book. And I’m grateful to readers! Leave a comment for a chance to win any one of my Chloe mysteries: Old World Murder, The Heirloom Murders, The Light Keeper’s Legacy, Heritage of Darkness, or Tradition of Deceit.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”