Midnight Ink Books

This is the fifth story in the award-winning Chloe Ellefson series, and the thirtieth published book by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst.

The Chloe novels combine history and mystery with a little romance. They are written for adults and mature teens who enjoy reading stories without explicit sex, gratuitous violence, or gore.

This page offers a rich mix of background information about the people, places, and the past that went into making Tradition of Deceit.

Story Description

The book takes place in Milwaukee, WI and Minneapolis, MN during February 1983, with an historical thread set in 1878 and the 1920s.

Curator and occasional sleuth Chloe Ellefson is off to Minneapolis to help her friend Ariel with a monumental task. They must write a proposal for a controversial and expensive restoration project to convert a huge abandoned flour millcurrently used as an unofficial shelter by homeless peopleinto a history museum.

When a dead body is found in the building, stuffed in a grain chute, Chloe's attention turns from milling to murder.

Back in Milwaukee, Chloe's love interest Roelke McKenna has been slammed with the news that a fellow police officer (his best friend) has been shot and killed while on duty.

Sifting through clues from the past and present, Chloe and Roelke separately discover dangerous secrets that put their trust in each otherand their very livesat risk.

Tradition of Deceit is readily available as a 360-page trade paperback and in ebook versions. Each contains photos and a cast of characters. To see a list of vendors that offer this book, click HERE.


What Others Are Saying

Photo of award-winning mystery author GM Malliet. GM Malliet
Agatha Award-winning Author
of the St. Just and Max Tudor mysteries

"A page-turner with a clever surprise ending. I very much enjoyed this satisfying tale and look forward to more adventures with Chloe."

photo of New York Times Bestselling Author Jane Kirkpatrick Jane Kirkpatrick
New York Times Bestselling Author
Where Lilacs Still Bloom and The Daughter's Walk

"Kathleen is a master story-teller... Don't start this until you have time to read straight through because there is no good place to stop."

Kirkus Reviews logo. Kirkus Reviews

"...provides informative historical facts, two good mysteries, and the trials and tribulations of a difficult relationship."

Partial book cover of "Milwaukee's Old South Side" by Jill Florence Lackey and Rick Petrie, from Arcadia Publishing.  Jill Florence Lackey, Phd.
Author of Milwaukee's Old South Side and American Ethnic Practices in the Twenty-first Century: The Milwaukee Study

"This is more than a mystery. It is a plush journey into cultural time and place."  

Escape With Dollycas blog logo  Escape With Dollycas Blog

"This was such a fascinating read I feel as if I devoured it. Definitely deserves more than 5 stars!"

About the Author

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

To date readers have purchased over 1.7M printed, ebook, and audio copies of Kathleen's thirty-five published books. more>>


Related Blog Posts

Enjoy the author's insights about the story, characters, and settings. Note: additional blog posts will be added during the fall of 2014.

Image of a chicken created by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst using Polish papercutting known as Wycinanki (Vee-Chee-Non-Kee). This chicken image serves as a clue in Tradition of Deceit, the fifth Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery written by Kathleen, published by Midnight Ink Books. Hands-On Wycinanki

"Readers have been wondering where they can try their hands at wycinanki, the art of Polish paper cutting featured in Tradition of Deceit..." more>>

Photo by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst of the ornate ironwork over an entrance to the Waupun Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin, which is a setting in Tradition of Deceit, Kathleen's fifth Chloe Ellefson adult mystery series published by Midnight Ink books. Roelke Goes to Prison

"When writing Tradition of Deceit, I needed to include a set scene at a prison. Waupun Correctional Institution was the logical choice. The prison is..." more>>
Color photo of a slice of Tunnel of Fudge cake, taken from 17th annual Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off Recipes booklet of 1966. Tunnel of Fudge Cake

"I had not heard of the Tunnel of Fudge Cake until I began doing research while writing Tradition of Deceit (the 5th Chloe Ellefson mystery), which celebrates Minnesota’s flour milling..." more>>
Milwaukee's Old South Side Settlement Museum sign. Urban Anthropology in Milwaukee's Old South Side

"I discovered the wonderful work being done by Urban Anthropology while working on Tradition of Deceit. The organization’s museum and..." more>>
Color photo of General Thaddeus Kosciuszko in Kosciuszko Park on Lincoln Avenue in Milwaukee's Old South Side neighborhood.  Why Milwaukee's Old South Side?

"If you’ve read any of the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries, you’ve already met Officer Roelke McKenna. Based on reader mail, he's a..." more>>
Meet Pavel

"Often in the Chloe books, a very minor character ends up being among the most memorable. I discovered this..." more>>
Folk dress from the Lowicz region, by Irena Czarnecka; card printed in Poland, partial print Polish Heritage

"In previous Chloe books I’ve featured Norwegian, Swiss, and Danish culture. When I began conceptualizing Tradition of Deceit..."  more>>
Color photo of a Polish Paczki donut. Paczki - Polish Doughnuts

"In Poland—and Polish communities—Fat Thursday is observed on the Thursday before Lent. People traditionally celebrate by eating..." more>>
Wycinanki artists Kasia Drake-Hames (center) and her grandmother (left) and Kasia's mother (right) at Poland Under Glass 2015 in Milwaukee, WI. Wycinanki

"Folk art plays a role in most of the Chloe Ellefson mysteries. Since Tradition of Deceit features bits of Polish culture, I decided to include..." more>>
Photo by Kathleen Ernst of the Milll City Museum sign, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Why The Mill City Museum?

"In Tradition of Deceit, Chloe visits a friend in Minneapolis to help with a proposal to turn a long-abandoned flour mill into a museum..."  more>>
Color copy of a color print ad for the Betty Crocker Gold Medal show on WCCO radio in Minneapolis, MN. Cooking With Betty Crocker...

"When I was writing Tradition of Deceit, I marveled at the connections between the the Mill City Museum, one of the settings, and popular American..."  more>>

Author's Note

My interests and experience are generally rural, so it takes very special stories and places to lure me into the heart of a city. This book features two such settings.

Chloe visits Minneapolis, where the Minnesota Historical Society wants to transform an enormous abandoned flour mill into a museum. Roelke is pulled to his old police beat in Milwaukee’s Old South Side, a vibrant, tight-knit and once largely Polish community.

Though separated by hundeds of miles, the mysteries are linked by historical and cultural events. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed crafting it!

Kathleen Ernst's signature graphic

P.S. -- Below is a free guide (PDF) to help book groups discuss Tradition of Deceit. (Caution: contains spoilers.)

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


In Tradition of Deceit Chloe and Roelke are separated by distance and circumstances, each facing challenges that threaten their budding relationshipand their lives.

Chloe gets her first exposure to Roelke's world when they attend the wedding of two Milwaukee police officers. The experience highlights their differences, and subsequent events raise fundamental questions about their prospects for a happy future together.

Photo of a Milwaukee Police Officer checking a door during a snowstorm.Photo of a female mill worker at the Gold meal flour mill.

Rick and Lidia are two of the secondary characters at the heart of this book. Rick Alvarez is Roelke's best friend; together the two attended Milwaukee's police academy, and later patrolled the city's Old South Side.

Lidia is a third generation Polish-American born and raised in the Bohemian Flats neighborhood of Minneapolis, and one of the very first women hired to work in the city's then vibrant flour milling industry.

Click the download link below to get the 1930's recipe for the old-time cookies that Chloe bakes for her friend Ariel.

 Image of a recipe card. CINNAMON JUMBLES
Cookies from the 1930's


Most of the scenes in this book are set at real places that still exist and can be visited (except for the private homes). Below is a custom interactive Google map designed to enable you to virtually visit the key locations where the story takes place.

Click on the maps to begin your tour.

Milwaukee, WI

The Old South Side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Minneapolis, MN

Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Past

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

In Tradition of Deceit Chloe and Roelke spend much of their time apart, but Polish-American artwork, food, and history are woven into their separate adventures.

While researching Tradition I discovered a number of remarkable historical events, objects, and images. Some influenced the story, while others 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. (Warning: 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 Tradition of Deceit. Click the right-facing arrows to listen.

Lake Effect Audio Clip Mitch Teich
Milwaukee Public Radio
11 min. 43 sec.
November 19, 2014.
Larry Meiller Show Larry Meiller
Wisconsin Public Radio
38 Min. 08 sec.
November 18, 2014

Where To Buy

Tradition of Deceit 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
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Books-A-Million logo TRADE PAPERBACK
Buy from Barnes & Noble NOOK eBOOK
Google Play logo.  GOOGLE PLAY eBOOK
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You can request a signed and personalized printed copy from me by clicking HERE.