Midnight Ink Books

This is the fourth novel in Kathleen's award-winning Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series. The story is set in Decorah, Iowa in December 1982, with flashbacks to events in the 1940's to 1960's.

The Chloe series is written for adults and mature teens who enjoy traditional mysteries (i.e., without explicit sex, violence, or gore).

This page has a rich mix of information for readers about the people, places, and the past that went into crafting Heritage of Darkness.

Story Description

For curator Chloe Ellefson, a family bonding trip to Decorah, Iowa for rosemaling classes seems like a great idea—until the drive begins. Chloe’s cop friend Roelke takes her mother’s talk of romantic customs good-naturedly, but it inflates Chloe’s emotional distress higher with each passing mile.

After finally reaching Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Chloe’s resolve to remain positive is squashed when she and Roelke find Petra Lekstrom’s body in an antique immigrant trunk. Everyone is shaken by the instructor’s murder, and when Mom volunteers to take over the beginners’ class, Chloe lands in the hot seat of motherly criticism.

As Chloe investigates, she uncovers dark family secrets that could be deadly for Mom . . . and even herself.

This 360-page book contains a cast of characters, a map of Decorah, and an author's note with photos and additional resources. It is available as a trade paperback and in e-book versions. For details, click on the FIND THIS BOOK link below.


What Others Are Saying

Photo of Steven L. Johnson, Executive Director, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. 
Steven L. Johnson
Executive Director
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum

"Few are above suspicion—not even the museum's director!—in this fourth Chloe Ellefson mystery, a totally captivating page-turner that, with Ernst's dextrous artistry, somehow also manages to celebrate the importance of heritage and tradition."
Phot of Dru Ann Love.  Dru Ann Love
Review on Dru's Book Musings Blog

"I love how the chapters flowed from the past to the present from one point of view to another without missing a step. The mystery kept me guessing and I was a bit surprised when the killer was revealed as I didn’t see that one coming. What I like best was we got to know more about Chloe, her mother and Roelke and I’m so glad it ended the way it did." 
Photo of Janice Liedl.  Janice Liedl
Review on Goodreads

"I've steered clear of Kathleen Ernst's mysteries for a few years, mostly because the stories seemed to hit too close to home...I worried she'd get something wrong or make fun of the Norwegian-American culture I knew so well. Nevertheless, I picked this book up and, boy, howdy!, am I glad that I did...Now I have some back-tracking to do: books one, two and three are in my to-read queue and you can bet I'll be looking for another adventure featuring Chloe and Roelke from this fine author."

About the Author

Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst writes award-winning mysteries and historical fiction for adults and young readers. Her work has earned numerous honors, including an Emmy, a LOVEY, and nominations for Edgar and multiple Agatha mystery awards. 

To date, readers have purchased over 1.5 million printed, electronic, and audio copies of her thirty-one published books.  more>>




Related Blog Entries

Enjoy the author's insights about the story, characters, and settings.

Thumbnail photo of the 1872 painting Åsgårdsreien (The Wild Hunt) by Peter Nicolai Arbo. Christmas Cozy, Christmas Bleak

"Folklore from many cultures recounts efforts to stave away the evil spirits howling through the skies, sometimes known as The Wild Hunt." more>>
Photo by Kathleen Ernst of frost-covered wild seedheads. Happy Solstice!

"Centuries ago, our ancestors built bonfires on the darkest day of winter..." more>>
Photo of immigrant trunk in Norway House exhibit at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Wreaking Havoc

"First, I pick a town and museum or historic site that I love, to serve as the setting. Then, I start making (fictional) trouble... more>>
Photo of Norwegian style chip carved candle plate carved by Ellen Macdonald. Chip Carving

"I knew Roelke McKenna needed to accompany Chloe and Mom to Decorah in Heritage of Darkness. Signing him up for a woodworking class..." more>>
Photo of a Lefse, Rosettes and Swedish Rye sign on window of Schubert’s Diner and Bakery in Mount Horeb, WI. Lefse

"Since a lefse pin spattered with blood is on the cover of my latest Chloe Ellefson mystery, Heritage of Darkness, it’s not much of a spoiler to say..."  more>>
Photo of a plate filled with Norwegian Christmas treats. Very Special Seniors

"Often characters with very small roles prompt the most feedback. And often, those characters are seniors."  more>>
Partial image of the book cover of "Heritage of Darkness" by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst, published by Midnight Ink Books. The Boyfriend

“I knew from the start that I wanted Chloe to have a man in her life. Enter Roelke McKenna, local cop."  more>>
Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst at Vesterhim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. Who Am I?

“It may be subconscious, but we all address that question in a myraid of ways thoughout our lives. And it's a question that museum curator Chloe..." more>>
Color photo of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Why Vesterheim?

Why is the new Chloe book set in Iowa? Why is Chloe crossing the border? Why not explore other sites in Wisconsin?  more>>
Photo of a modern Norwegian Christmas Nisse handing out presents at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Christmas All Year Long

The book takes place during the first week of December, 1982. Chloe is asked to interview several elderly people about their Christmas traditions. Those traditions shape the plot... more>>
Photo of a rosemaling instructor's hands, painting. Of Mothers and Daughters

Chloe’s relationship with her mother is polite, but distant. Mom is a renowned practitioner of rosemaling, a decorative form of Norwegian painting... more>>

Author's Note

While researching the first Chloe mystery, Old World Murder, I visited Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah to study the ale bowls in their collection, and take a beginning rosemaling class.

I've been back many times since, and quickly decided that Chloe needed to spend time in this special place too.

Heritage Of Darkness melds two of my favorite Vesterheim activities—folk art classes and the annual Norwegian Christmas celebration—to create the setting and context for Chloe's visit.

I encourage you to visit the lovely community of Decorah. Explore the museum, take a class, experience a special event. Enjoy!

P.S. -- I've created this free guide to help book groups discuss Heritage of Darkness. (Caution: contains spoilers.)

Book discussion logo. DISCUSSION GUIDE
Questions to help spark
a group conversation.


Heritage of Darkness is the first book in this series to be set outside of Wisconsin. It won't be the last, although I plan to keep Chloe and Roelke firmly rooted at Old World Wisconsin and the Village of Eagle.

In this story, Chloe suggests a trip to Vesterheim with her mother, Marit, a world-class Norwegian Rosemaling painter. Chloe hopes it will help them bond.

Roelke tags along to learn chip carving, and spend some quality time with Chloe. However, this being a murder mystery, things don't go quite as planned.

Marit “All Things Norwegian” Kallerud, is a world class rosemaling painter who has taken and taught Norwegian 'rose painting' classes at Vesterheim for over fifteen years.Roelke McKenna is a mostly self-taught whittler who takes a chip carving class at Vesterheim and discovers pleasure in the precise patterns of this folk art.

In the course of a week Chloe, Marit, and Roelke each face emotional challenges, and danger. Some relationships are strained; others are strengthened.

When things look truly grim, Chloe remembers what Roelke's grandmother used to say: Sometimes the only thing you can do for people you care about is make sure they eat a good meal. Click the download link below to get a copy of the recipe Chloe prepares for Marit.

Swiss Pear Bread Recipe Card CHLOE'S TOMATO SOUP
Chloe loves this warm, hearty, healthy recipe.


Most scenes in this book are set at real places that still exist and can be visited (except for the private homes). Below are two resources to help you discover them. 

Use the interactive Google map below to virtually visit Decorah to discover the locations where the story takes place.

Click on the map to begin your tour.

Decorah, IA

A Locations Guide is being created to aid you to plan, and get the most out of, an in-person Chloe tour of Decorah.

The guide will feature photos, descriptions, a map, and advice on when to visit. You will be able to take this free PDF file with you on your mobile device or on paper.

Enjoy your visit to Decorah!

Photo of front entrance of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. LOCATIONS GUIDE
This printable/portable PDF file provdes details about key places in the book.

The Past

Historical objects, heritage crafts, and traditional foods are staples in each of my Chloe mysteries.

In Heritage of Darkness, Choe and Roelke discover clues hidden in Vesterheim's extensive collection, secrets from the director's past, and the power of darkness in Norwegian folklore.

While researching the novel I discovered a number of remarkable historical objects and images. Some influenced the story, while others actually appear in the book.

The slideshow below contains some of my favorites. Click on any image to see larger copies of the slides, with descriptions. (Caution: contains some spoilers.)

And More

I've been the guest of two wonderful radio hosts, who invited me to discuss the book. Thanks to their generosity, and the magic of digital media, you can listen to our conversations about Heritage of Darkness. Click the right-facing arrows to listen.

Lake Effect Audio Clip Mitch Teich
Milwaukee Public Radio
12 min. 30 sec.
December 20, 2013.
Larry Meiller Show Larry Meiller
Wisconsin Public Radio
38 min. 37 sec.
October 22, 2013

Where To Buy

Heritage of Darkness is available from your local independent bookstore, and Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and other booksellers as a trade paperback or ebook. Click below to order online.

Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum logo. TRADE PAPERBACK
Buy from Indiebound Books TRADE PAPERBACK
Kobo logo.   KOBO eBOOK
Apple iTunes logo. iBOOKS eBOOK
Books-A-Million logo TRADE PAPERBACK
Buy from Barnes & Noble NOOK eBOOK
Google Play logo. GOOGLE PLAY eBOOK
Buy from Amazon.com KINDLE eBOOK

You can request a signed and personalized printed copy from me by clicking HERE.