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Adult Mysteries

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Hanneke Bauer Mysteries

The Solace of Stars book cover

The Solace of Stars
Hanneke Bauer Mystery #2

Four months after her turbulent arrival, Pomeranian immigrant Hanneke Bauer is still
struggling to feel at home on the Wisconsin farm she inherited from her husband. She
does savor a growing friendship with tinsmith Karoline Ketzler, but that solace vanishes
when Karoline’s daughter Jacobine finds her father dead from a vicious attack.

When the deputy sheriff’s suspicions fall on Karoline, Hanneke employs her own talents
to investigate the crime. The search reveals dangerous cultural rifts and astonishing
family secrets. Hanneke’s tenacity and intellect help edge her closer to the truth…but
will her efforts provoke the killer to strike again?

Kathleen Ernst

Author's Note

Writing the first Hanneke Bauer Mystery, Lies of Omission, allowed me to revisit a project I’d been thinking about for many years. It was great fun to begin The Solace of Stars, and to consider what was next for Hanneke. I always want my protagonist to grow and change emotionally over the course of a story.

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Lies Of Omission
Hanneke Bauer Mystery #1

As Hanneke Bauer watched the Milwaukee shoreline come into focus beyond Lake Michigan’s choppy waves, she wondered if she would even recognize her husband.

When Pomeranian immigrant Hanneke Bauer reaches Wisconsin, she believes her dearest dreams are coming true. After reuniting with her husband Fridolin at his farm near Watertown, she will help create a true home.

Kathleen Ernst

Author's Note

In 1982, I accepted an interpretive job at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor ethnic museum with a living history program. My first assignment was in the German area, which included two farms originally owned by Pomeranian immigrants.

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Chloe Ellefson Mysteries

Weavers Revenge Book Cover

The Weavers Revenge
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #11

This is a mistake, Chloe thought as she parked her car in the secret spot along the wooded entrance drive to Old World Wisconsin.

When offered a rare opportunity to help develop a fledgling historic site dedicated to Finnish American history and heritage, [museum] curator Chloe Ellefson journeys to the remote Northwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In addition to the consultant job, she’s on a personal quest to learn about the enduring tradition of rag rug weaving.

Encountering a dead body upon arrival, however, immediately puts her goals in jeopardy.

Weaving machine

Author's Note

As the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series has progressed, I’ve often featured large or well-known historic sites as settings. This time, I’m delighted to celebrate a small site: The Hanka Homestead Finnish
Museum in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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Fiddling With Fate Chloe Ellefson Mystery Book Cover

Fiddling With Fate
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #10

Chloe didn’t cry until the fiddler walked to the casket suspended over the grave, settled the instrument beneath her chin, and began to play.

After her mother's unexpected death, museum 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.

Kathleen Ernst and her husband standing by water and mountains in the background

Author's Note

When I originally chose to make Chloe a Norwegian-American, I had no idea how much fun exploring her heritage would be!

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The Lace Maker's Secret Book Cover

The Lace Maker's Secret
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #9

“Something is burdening you," Libby told Roelke McKenna. "Spill it. Now."
"Nothing's wrong."
Libby's eyes narrowed. "I don't believe you."
Roelke turned to the kitchen counter where an old-fashioned percolator burbled with promise. Trust his cousin to just know. 


Museum Curator Chloe Ellefson needs distraction from the unsettling family secret she's just learned. It doesn't help that her boyfriend, police officer Roelke McKenna, has been troubled for weeks and won't say why.

Chloe hopes a consulting job at Green Bay's Heritage Hill Historical Park, where an old Belgian-American farmhouse is being restored, will be a relaxing escape.

Instead she discovers a body in a century-old bake oven.

Kathleen Ernst standing in a window of a barn

Author's Note

Chloe and Roelke’s struggles often mirror issues that the historical characters face.

Themes in this book—reflected in both the modern and historical timelines—include challenges of faith and forgiveness.


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Mining For Justice Kathleen Ernst book cover

Mining For Justice
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #8

“I’m worried about Libby,” Roelke said. Chloe Ellefson glanced sideways at the man she loved. He hadn’t spoken since they’d left home almost an hour ago, so she’d known something was on his mind. 

Chloe Ellefson is excited to be learning about Wisconsin's early Cornish immigrants and mining history while on temporary assignment at Pendarvis, a historic site in charming Mineral Point.

But when her boyfriend, police officer Roelke McKenna, discovers long-buried human remains in the root cellar of an old Cornish cottage, Chloe reluctantly agrees to mine the local historical records for answers.

Kathleen Ernst climbing in a cave

Author's Note

Before writing Mining For Justice, I knew very little about the Cornish miners who immigrated to southwest Wisconsin in the 1830s, drawn by reports of lead deposits.


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Memory of Muskets Book Cover

A Memory Of Muskets
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #7

“I want a fight,” Ralph Petty said. Chloe started to protest, but remembered just in time that this was not her meeting, not her show. She closed her mouth and tried to look thoughtful. 

 Curator Chloe Ellefson is happily planning to spotlight German immigrants and home-front challenges at Old World Wisconsin's first Civil War weekend. Her boss is secretly planning to fire her. He scorns her ideas, ordering the staff to stage a mock battle.

Woman and man civil war reenactors

Author's Note

To the uninitiated, Civil War reenactors may seem like a very like-minded group.

But actually, there are many large and sometimes strongly held differences between them. Heated arguments can erupt over loyalties to the North or South, authenticity standards, and about women portraying male soldiers 'in the ranks'.


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Death on the Prairie Book Cover

Death On The Prairie
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #6

“This quilt belonged to who?” Chloe Ellefson's voice squeaked on the last word. “Did you say ...Laura Ingalls Wilder?”

Chloe Ellefson and her sister, Kari, have long dreamed of visiting each historic site dedicated to Laura Ingalls Wilder. When Chloe unexpectedly gets custody of a quilt—said to have once been owned by the beloved author—the sisters set off on a Wilder road trip of a lifetime, hoping to prove Laura also stitched it herself.

stack of books

Author's Note

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder were perhaps the first volumes of historical fiction that I read as a child.

Growing up in suburban Maryland, Wisconsin's "Big Woods" seemed a far-distant and amazing place! The people and adventures I discovered within the pages of each Laura book were fascinating.


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Tradition of Deceit Book Cover

Tradition Of Deceit
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #5

Chloe Ellefson was not having a good time. "So," Roelke said, sliding into his seat at the banquet table. "Are you enjoying yourself?"

Chloe smiled brightly. "I am!"

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 mill—currently used as an unofficial shelter by homeless people—into a history museum.

Kathleen Ernst standing in an Old Mill

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.


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Heritage Of Darkness Book Cover

Heritage of Darkness
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #4

Although she tried to hide it from Mom and Roelke, Chloe Ellefson’s emotional distress inflated with each passing mile. Distress descended into panic by the time they left Wisconsin.

For curator Chloe Ellefson, a bonding trip with her mother Marit to take rosemaling classes at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum seems like a great idea—until the drive there begins. Chloe’s cop friend Roelke McKenna tags along, hoping to do some bonding of his own. During the drive Roelke responds with good nature to Marit's talk of Norwegian romantic customs, but Chloe’s emotional distress increases with each passing mile.

Kathleen Ernst sitting at a table making art

Author's Note

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.


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The Light Keeper's Legacy Book cover

The Light Keeper's Legacy
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #3

"This trip of yours is a very bad idea," Roelke said soberly.
Chloe Ellefson sighed. "You sound as if I'm disappearing into some trackless wilderness."

This book takes place in Door County, Wisconsin in September 1982, with an historical thread that is set between 1869 and 1906.

Museum curator (and reluctant sleuth) Chloe Ellefson jumps at the chance to spend time on Wisconsin’s Rock Island, a state park with no electricity or roads. She's there on temporary assignment from Old World Wisconsin to consult on restoring the island’s historic 1858 lighthouse. Solitude at last!

Kathleen Ernst standing on a rocky shore

Author's Note

For eight years my husband and I had the great pleasure and privilege of serving as volunteer docents at the Pottawatomie Lighthouse, located in Wisconsin’s Rock Island State Park.


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The Heirloom Murders Book Cover

The Heirloom Murders
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #2

"The guy tried using a pistol?" Roelke McKenna asked, as he opened his locker door.

This book is set in July, 1982 at Old World Wisconsin (a large outdoor history museum), the nearby Village of Eagle, and the Village of New Glarus in Green County, Wisconsin—with an historical thread in 1876.

As collections curator for Old World Wisconsin, Chloe Ellefson delights in losing herself in antiques and folk traditions—and forgetting about her overbearing boss and messy love life.

KAE  Koepsell  garden

Author's Note

Although The Heirloom Murders weaves several plot strands together (as the description makes clear), I particularly wanted to highlight the important role historic sites play in perpetuating heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers.


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Old World Murder Book Cover

Old World Murder
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #1

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.

This book takes place during May, 1982 at Old World Wisconsin (a large outdoor history museum), the nearby villages of Eagle and Palmyra, and the community of Daleyville in Dane County, Wisconsin.

Trying to leave painful memories behind, Chloe Ellefson is making a fresh start as the new collections curator at Old World Wisconsin. On her first day an elderly woman begs Chloe to find a priceless Norwegian ale bowl donated to the museum years ago. Chloe promises to look, but within minutes the woman dies in a suspicious car wreck. At the crash scene Chloe meets handsome young cop Roelke McKenna.

Kathleen Ernst looking out a window with a scarf on her head looking out a window

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.


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