Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am delighted to welcome Kathleen Ernst back to Escape with Dollycas!
Reaching a Milestone
By Kathleen Ernst
As Chloe Ellefson walked from 1982 into 1870s Wisconsin, a white frame church emerged from the trees, prettily framed against a cloud-studded blue sky. The view alone was enough to make most visitors pause, appreciate the simple elegance of the restored church, perhaps even wonder about the lives of those women and men and children who had first worshiped within its walls. For Chloe, the historic site’s newest employee, the scene represented a fresh start.
I wrote those words seventeen years ago, hoping they might one day become the beginning of an adult mystery novel.
At the time I was busy writing historical fiction for young readers and working as a project director and scriptwriter for instructional videos broadcast on Wisconsin Public Television. I had little spare time.
Still, writing a series about an outdoor museum curator was something I truly wanted to do. I had once worked for a large historic site myself, and I missed that world. Writing “on spec,” with no promise of publication, I began work on the first Chloe Ellefson mystery, Old World Murder.
Because I had to fit writing Chloe’s story around contract work, it took me seven years to finish that first book. The delays actually served me well, I think, for they gave me lots of time to think about not only the first mystery, but my goals for the series.
Old World Murder was published by Midnight Ink in 2010. Astonishingly, I’m now celebrating publication of the 10th book in the series, Fiddling With Fate.
My goals for the series haven’t changed. First, I strive to give readers a satisfying armchair adventure and complex characters to root for. In addition, I want to feature real historic sites and museums in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. I want to celebrate this region’s diverse ethnic heritage by focusing on different groups. And I want to spotlight the stories that artifacts and old buildings can tell.
I’m writing about stories and places I feel passionately about, and I hope it shows. I love hearing that the mysteries have inspired readers to visit a museum, try a traditional craft, or delve deeper into their own family history.
The very best part of writing ten Chloe Ellefson mysteries? Making so many friends along the way—sites staff and volunteers, folk artists, reenactors, bloggers, and other authors, and most especially the many readers who care about Chloe (and her fiancé, Roelke McKenna) as much as I do.
To celebrate this milestone, Chloe and Roelke travel a bit farther afield in Fiddling With Fate. Chloe accepts a grant that sends them to Norway to research folk dance and fiddle music. While there, she hopes to unravel the mystery of her own ancestry. Of course, all does not go smoothly! Nonetheless, Chloe and Roelke manage to celebrate a milestone of their own.
Heartfelt thanks to Dollycas for her years of support, and to the wonderful readers who have made it possible for me to hold the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery in my hand. Happy reading!
Thank you, Kathleen, for visiting and writing such wonderful stories!
Keep reading for my thoughts on Fiddling with Fate.
Chloe has a devil of a time unraveling the mysteries of Norway’s fiddle and dance traditions
After her mother’s unexpected death, curator Chloe Ellefson discovers hidden antiques that hint at family secrets. Determined to find answers, Chloe accepts a consultant job in Norway, her ancestors’ homeland. She’s thrilled with the opportunity to explore Hardanger fiddle and dance traditions . . . and her own heritage.
Once their plane lands, however, Chloe and her fiancé, cop Roelke McKenna, encounter only disharmony. Chloe’s research reveals strong women and the importance of fiddle music in their lives. But folklore warns against “the devil’s instrument” and old evils may yet linger among the fjords and mountains. As Chloe fine-tunes her search for the truth, a killer’s desire to stop her builds to a deadly crescendo.
Chloe was dealing with some information she found out about her mother when her mother unexpectedly passed away. While going through her mother’s belongings she finds some unique heirlooms hidden away. These objects raise more questions than providing answers. Her mother was getting ready to travel to Norway to study Hardanger fiddle and dance traditions. With her death, Chloe is given the opportunity to take her place and her fiancé Roelke McKenna agrees to go along.
Their trip gets off to a rocky start when someone tries to steal the backpack Chloe is carrying at the airport soon after they landed. Able to hang on to her belongs, they try to concentrate on Chloe’s research with the added opportunity to research her mother’s background. The fiddle has a rich heritage, both good and bad and Chloe is anxious to learn all she can. But when a young woman is murdered Chloe enlists Roelke police instincts to help her solve all the mysteries. When they realize Chloe is the killer’s target things get really intense.
What I have loved about every book in this series is the way Kathleen Ernst melds her character’s lives with an extraordinary mystery while tying in a historic story too. This time she takes us to Norway to learn about immigrants that had migrated to Wisconsin in the 1920s. She takes her readers along with lead character Chloe on an adventure to learn about Norwegian history and the many facets like music and fiddling played in that history. The author’s research shines but it is all fictionalized in a way that is a pure joy to read.
Her words also permit readers to visualize clearly every place her characters travel. The outside museum, the trails, the hotel, the waterfalls, and to a spectacular place where Chloe learns so much. All the people they meet too are richly described and developed.
Chloe’s life takes place in the 1980s, no cell phones, no GPS, no Wikipedia, no internet, but she does have what I call “spidey sense”, certain places and things affect her physically. She learns much through her travels and experiences. I found myself fully immersed in this story wanting the learn right along with her. Both the present time and historic period had its own suspenseful mystery and some terrifying moments building to an unexpected ending.
Ms. Ernst is an amazing storyteller. Her imagination weaves a story filled with real history to take her readers on a delightful literary trip. The main characters are genuine, real and very engaging. It seems each book in this series becomes my new favorite because the author continues to top herself.
Fiddling with Fate takes two characters I care about on quite a journey. I loved every minute of it! Look for this book on my Best Reads List of 2019.
Each story is written to stand on its own but for maximum enjoyment, you should read them all.
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About the Author
Kathleen Ernst is a social historian, educator, and author. Her Chloe Ellefson mysteries reflect the decade she spent as a curator at a large outdoor museum, and feature historic sites in the Upper Midwest. Library Journal says, “Ernst keeps getting better with each entry in this fascinating series.” Kathleen has also written many mysteries for young readers. Honors for her work include a LOVEY Award and Agatha and Edgar nominations. Kathleen lives and writes in Wisconsin.
Author Links – Website Blog Facebook
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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.”