Midnight Ink Books

This is the first novel in the award-winning Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series. The story is set in May 1982 at the Old World Wisconsin outdoor history museum and the nearby Vilage of Eagle.

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 creating Old World Murder.

Story Description

Trying to leave painful memories behind her, Chloe Ellefson is making a fresh start. She's the new collections curator at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor ethnic museum showcasing 1800s settlement life.

On her first day, Chloe meets with an elderly woman who begs her to find a priceless eighteenth-century Norwegian ale bowl that had been donated to the museum years ago. But before Chloe can find the heirloom and return it to her, the woman dies in a suspicious car crash.

Digging up the history and whereabouts of the rare artifact quickly turns dangerous. Chloe discovers someone is desperately trying to cover up all traces of the bowl's existence—by any means necessary. Assisting Chloe is officer Roelke McKenna, whose own haunting past compels him to protect her. To catch a covetous killer, Chloe must solve a decades-old puzzle, before she becomes history herself.

This book is available as a 325-page trade paperback and in e-book versions. For details, click on the FIND THE BOOK link below.



What Others Are Saying

Image of julia spencer-fleming, award-winning author.  Julia Spencer-Fleming
Anthony and Agatha Award-winning Author
Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries

"Character-driven, with mystery aplenty, Old World Murder is a sensational read. Think Sue Grafton meets Earlene Fowler, with a dash of Elizabeth Peters."

Publisher's Weekly logo.  Publishers Weekly

"Clever plot twists and credible characters make this a far from humdrum cozy."


Publicity photo of Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author Sandi Ault.  Sandi Ault
Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning Author
The WILD Mysteries

"In curator Chloe Ellefson, Ernst has created a captivating character with humor, grit, and a tangled history of her own that needs unraveling. Enchanting!"

American Library Association Booklist Online logo.  American Library Association Booklist

"The engaging story of a woman devastated by a failed romantic relationship whose sleuthing helps her heal."

Publicity photo of John Lehman of Rosebud Book Reviews. John Lehman
Rosebud Book Reviews

"A Museum Masterpiece. The setting, characters and Midwest values are as authentic as could be... The final sentence will send you looking for the next book in this series. Guaranteed!"


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 1.6 million printed, electronic, and audio copies of Kathleen's thirty-three published books. more>>





Related Blog Posts

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

Photo of author Kathleen Ernst working as an interpreter in 1982 at Old World Wisconsin.Old World Wisconsin 1982 Coming Full Circle

I worked at Old World Wisconsin for twelve years. During those years I developed my writing skills, as well. What better training could someone writing historical fiction ask for... more>>
Photo of the Four Mile Inn at Old World Wisconsin in 1980. Old World Wisconsin in Chloe's Day

I sometimes forget how much Old World Wisconsin has changed in the past few decades, so I thought it would be fun to share some photos of the site in the early years. The site opened in... more>>

About Those Trailers...

Readers sometimes wonder if I exaggerated the artifact storage conditions when I wrote Old World Murder. Well, here is one of the trailers Chloe discovers when she... more>>

Photo of hand carved and rosemaled Norwegian ale bowl with cows head handles. An Ale Bowl With Cow Heads

When Old World Murder was published, my husband Scott suggested that we commission a carver and painter to create the bowl described in the novel. It was a lovely idea, but.... more>>
Photo of author Kathleen Ernst painting a tray in a rosemaling calss at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, IA. Rosemaling Through Time

My protagonist is a Norwegian-American museum curator named Chloe Ellefson. Chloe’s mom is an expert rosemaler. Knowing that this art will be touched on again in future books...  more>>
Photo of a small antique Norwegian ale bowl with rams head handles in the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum collection. Ale Bowls: Migration of a Tradition

When I was developing the plot for Old World Murder, I needed a Norwegian artifact for a major plot point.  I chose to feature an ale bowl. These old tankards, which are often beautifully carved and painted, have appealed to...  more>>
Photo of the Nite Cap Inn sign in Palmyra, WIisconsin. The Nite Cap Inn – Then and Now

Before Old World Murder was published, several people asked if writing about real places made me nervous. I have a simple rule: I only write about real places that I love... more>>
Photo of author Kathleen Ernst attending the Writer's Police Academy in 2010. Writers Police Academy

Old World Murder
has two point-of-view characters, a museum curator and a cop. As a former curator, I had that one covered. When I started writing, though, I knew little about police.... more>>
Photo of the front of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. More Than I Was Looking For

The plot of Old World Murder revolves around an antique Norwegian ale bowl. I’ve always been intrigued by the beautifully carved and/or painted  bowls. I recently went to Vesterheim... more>>



Author's Note

Much of this mystery is set at "Old World." It's a real place—and one of the premier living history museums in the country. It was my good fortune to work there as an interpreter and curator for twelve years.

After leaving I found myself missing it, and the larger world of historic sites. I created this series to revisit those times, and to reveal the unique (and often little known) human stories that those places preserve.

Come along on a video tour as I reveal how this real museum became the fictional setting for my first Chloe Ellefson mystery. Click below to start. (2 min. 59 sec.)

Over time I will set individual books at other historic sites, but the series will stay firmly rooted at Old World Wisconsin. I invite you along as the series explores fascinating people, places, and the past.

P.S. -- I've created a free guide to help book groups discuss Old World Murder. (Caution: contains spoilers.)

Image of an owl with title "Book Discussion." DISCUSSION GUIDE
Questions to spark a
discussion of this book


As a reader, a good mystery series is one that I can take a long, multi-book journey with characters that I come to care about.

Writing Old World Murder let me create my own series (six books and growing) based around a pair of characters that I love: Chloe Ellefson and Roelke McKenna.

Readers often ask me whether I am Chloe. No, but we do have things in common. Like Chloe, I started at Old World in 1982, and wore my waist-length hair in a braid.

Photo of author Kathleen Ernst serving at an interpreter at Old World Wisconsin in the early 1980's.

My 'office' in an old trailer serves as the basis for hers. We also share challenging relations with our bosses—and treasure the old buildings, furnishings, and stories.

And we are vegetarians who enjoy trying new recipes. Here's a favorite of ours.

Recipe card for Chloe Ellefson's Maple Blueberry Cake CHLOE'S MAPLE BLUEBERRY CAKE
Oh so delicious!


Most of the scenes in this book are set at real places that still exist and can be visited (except for the private homes). Here are two resources to assist you to virtually or physically visit these settings.

The custom Google map below enables you to virtually visit Old World and Eagle. Click on the map below to start your tour.

Google map of the Eagle Wisconsin and Old World Wisconsin area.

A Locations Guide has also been created to help you plan and get the most out of an in-person 'Chloe Tour' of these locations, plus some that are farther afield.

This four-page PDF guide includes photos and descriptions. Download and bring it along on paper or your mobile device. Enjoy your visit; tell'em Chloe sent you!

Fossebrekke Cabin at Old World Wisconsin 1982 LOCATIONS GUIDE
Discover the places where
key scenes take place.

The Past

Heritage crafts, historical artifacts, and traditional foods are staples in all my Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries.

The slide show below includes images of some of the things that I've woven into Old World Murder. Click on any image to see larger version with a description. (Warning: contains some spoilers.)

<em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow<em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow<em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow<em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow<em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow<em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow <em>Old World Murder</em> slideshow

And More

Thanks to the magic of digital media, you can eavesdrop on me discussing Chloe, Roelke, Old World, and Eagle with this popular public radio host and his callers. Click the right-facing arrow to listen.

Larry Meiller Show logo Larry Meiller
Wisconsin Public Radio
36 Min. 09 Sec.
November 30, 2010.

Find The Book

Old World Murder 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.

Buy from Indiebound Books TRADE PAPERBACK
Kobo eBook Store logo. KOBO eBOOK
Apple iTunes Store logo. APPLE 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 buy a signed and personalized printed copy from me by clicking HERE.