DEATH ON THE PRAIRIE
CHLOE ELLEFSON MYSTERY #6

Midnight Ink Books
eBook & Print Formats

Left rear end of a 1969 American Motors Corporation (AMC) Rambler sedan. Photo by GR Auto Gallery enhanced by Scott Meeker.


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


Thus begins the sixth story in the award-winning Chloe Ellefson series, the thirty-third 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 Death On The Prairie.

Story Description


This book takes place in May 1983 at Laura Ingalls Wilder historic sites in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

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.

But death strikes as the journey begins, and trouble stalks them. Among the "Little House" devotees they meet are academic critics, greedy collectors, and obsessive fans. Kari is distracted by family problems back home, and surprising news from Chloe's boyfriend Roelke McKenna jeopardizes her own future.

As the sisters travel deeper into Wilder territory, they are pursued by people who covet the quilt. Chloe races to discover the truth about it—and her own heart—before a killer can strike again.

Death on the Prairie is available as a 360-page trade paperback and in ebook versions. Each contains a map, photos, and a cast of characters.

To see a partial list of vendors that offer this book, click HERE.

   
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What Others Are Saying

Color photo of LOVEY award-winning mystery author Molly MacRae. Molly MacRae
Award-winning Author
Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery series

"As superbly pieced together as a blue ribbon quilt, Death on the Prairie is deft and delightful."

 
Kirkus Reviews logo. Kirkus Reviews

"A real treat for Little House fans, a fine mystery supplemented by fascinating information about the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder."
 
Color head shot photo of Dr. John E. Miller, Professor Emeritus of History, author of Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the legend. Dr. John E. Miller
Professor Emeritus of History and Author
Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder

"Suspense, intrigue, trafficking in stolen artifacts, blackmail, murder; they're all here in this fast-paced mystery thriller."
 
The American Library Association Booklist Online logo. American Library Association Booklist

"Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder will savor the facts . . . and quilters will also find much to enjoy. Ernst does an exceptional job of sharing the kind of character details that cozy readers relish."
 
Photo of Linda Halpin, author of Quilting With Laura. Linda Halpin
Quilter, Instructor, and Author
Quilting With Laura

"A delightful tale of intrigue that interweaves facts about Laura’s life with fan folklore, and murder."
 
Mystery Guild Book Club logo. Mystery Guild Book Club
October 2015 Selection

 
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About the Author


Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst writes award-winning mysteries as well as historical fiction and non-fiction 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 audio, ebook, and printed copies of Kathleen's now thirty-six published books. more>>

   
 CONTACT KATHLEEN
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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 2015.

Kathleen Ernst and her sister Barbara Ernst at the Laura Ingalls Wilder cabin near Pepin, Wisconsin. Looking For Laura

"Like countless other girls, one of my earliest introductions to historical fiction came in the pages of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic “Little House” series." more>>
 
Laura Ingalls Wilder And The Power Of Place

"A strong sense of place is an essential element of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic books. Thematically, the series is all about place..." more>>
 
Partial image of the front cover of Little House In The Big Woods book by Laura Ingalls Wilder, cover art by Garth Williams, published 1953 by Harper & Row. Laura Ingalls Wilder For Grownups

"It’s always a gamble to return to beloved books from my childhood. More than once I’ve come across a favorite, and settled down to relive the fun…" more>>
 
Photo by Kay Klubertanz of the reproduction the Ingalls family cabin near Pepin, WI. Laura Land Tour: Pepin, WI

"Laura was born seven miles north of Pepin, in western Wisconsin’s wooded hills above the Mississippi River. Many decades later she immortalized the location in the first book..." more>>
 
Color photo of the front of the restored Masters Hotel in Burr Oak IA where the Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and worked in 1876. Laura Land Tour: Burr Oak, IA

"From Pepin, WI, it takes less than two hours to reach Burr Oak, IA. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, it’s because Laura Ingalls Wilder did not include this period in her famous books." more>>
 
Photo of the wooden sign on Plum Creek marking where the Ingalls family ived in a dugout near Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Laura Land Tour: Walnut Grove, MN

"In 1874, when Laura Ingalls was seven, her parents purchased 172 acres of land two miles north of Walnut Grove, MN. As readers of On The Banks of Plum Creek know, the family moved into..." more>>
 
Photo by author Kathleen Ernst of the Surveyors’ House in De Smet, South Dakota, where the Ingalls family spent the winter of 879-1880. Laura Land Tour: De Smet, SD - Part 1

"My advice if you head to De Smet: plan to stay a couple of days. As Laura Ingalls Wilder fans know, By the Shores Of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town On the Prairie, and..." more>>
 
Photo of Ingalls Homestead roadside sign near De Smet, South Dakota, taken by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst. Laura Land Tour: De Smet, SD - Part 2

"As I mentioned in my last post about De Smet, avid Laura Ingalls Wilder fans can easily spend more than a single day in the area. I suggest picking up a copy of the booklet..." more>>
 
Color photo taken by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst of the reproduction log cabin on the property where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived as a child, near Independence, Kansas. Laura Land Tour: Independence, KS

"The Kansas prairie is the setting for Little House On The Prairie, the second book in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic Little House series. Today, fans can visit the site where the Ingalls..." more>>
 
Photo by author Kathleen Ernst of the Rock House built by Rose Wilder Lane for her parents Almonzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder near Mansfield, Missouri, for them to retire in. Laura Land Tour: Mansfield, MO

"I will admit that when my sister and I began planning visits to all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites, I was most excited to see the places I’d read about in Laura’s Little House books." more>>
 
Photo of a much used set of the original Laura Ingalls Wilder series of "Little House" books Books or TV?

"Are you familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s bestselling tales of life on the frontier of white settlement? And if so, were you introduced to..." more>>
 
Photo by author Kathleen Ernst of the Hexagonal Star (also called the Rising Star) pattern quilt owned by Laura Ingalls Wilder, now in the collection of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, in Walnut Grove, MN. The Hidden History of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Quilts

"Anyone with an interest in family history knows how easy it is for information to disappear. When someone dies, a wealth of knowledge dies too." more>>
 
Photo of author and quilter Linda Halpin at the reproduction Wilder cabin near Pepin, Wisconsin, holding a quilt she made. Photographer unknown. Bringing Laura Ingalls Wilder's Stories to Life in Quilts - Part 1
By Linda Halpin

"Like many, my adventure with Laura started in grade school when I was captivated by her stories." more>> 
 
Photo of (L-R) authors Kathleen Ernst and Linda Halpin holding Linda's quilt of Laura Ingalls Wilder patterns at the sight of the Ingalls family dugout home on Plum Creek, near Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Bringing Laura Ingalls Wilder's Stories to Life in Quilts - Part 2
By Linda Halpin

"It turns out my connection to Laura wasn’t done. Many years after Quilting With Laura was published..." more>>
 
Mystery Scene Magazine logo. Laura And Me

"Only another true Little House-lover could understand what the books had meant to her as a child. … Laura’s adventures had captivated. Laura’s struggles had inspired. Laura had been a faithful..." more>>

 
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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.

Photo of the the future award-winning bestselling author Kathleen Ernst, seen reading a book as a young child. Photograph by Priscilla Ernst.

Little did I know then that one day I would move permanently to Wisconsin.

I've never lost my soft spot for the Little House books, and was delighted to find that re-reading them as an adult brought new levels of understanding to the pioneer experience as depicted by Wilder.

My older sister and I have visited each homesite devoted to the famous author, and I've known for some time that Chloe and her sister Kari needed to do so too.

In Death on the Prairie, the Ellefson sisters embark on an epic road trip to tour each of Laura's homesites. Their visits, of course, do not go as smoothly as mine!

I hope you enjoy their adventures. And if you're a Little House fan, I hope the book evokes some happy memories for you. 
             
             Kathleen Ernst's signature graphic

P.S. -- Below is a free PDF guide to help book groups discuss this story. Enjoy! (Caution: contains spoilers.)

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

People

Laura Ingalls (Wilder) was born February 7, 1867, seven miles north of Pepin, Wisconsin. In 1932, many years, moves, and adventures later, she first published Little House in the Big Woods, a book of historical fiction based on her life there.

Laura went on to publish more volumes in what became a bestselling series:  Farmer Boy (about her husband's boyhood), Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years.

Millions of readers formed impressions of pioneer life and Euro-Yankee western expansion by reading Laura's books.

During Chloe's time (Death on the Prairie is set in 1983) fans knew Laura from her books, or from the popular television series, Little House on the Prairie.

Laura's autobiography, "Pioneer Girl," languished in relative obscurity at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum until Pamela Hill Smith published a bestselling annotated version of the manuscript in 2015. Today fans and scholars easily connect online, and meet at conferences dedicated to Wilder's life.

It took Laura many years to find a home for her stories. What would she think to know that readers still remain fascinated with her work, and her life?

Places

Death on the Prairie is set in May 1983. Most of the scenes take place at real places that still exist and can be visited (except for the private homes).

The map below has been created to enable you to virtually visit most of the places in the book, including each of the featured Laura Ingalls Wilder historic sites.

Click on the map to begin your tour.

Laura Land

Google map of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Sites featured in <em>Death on the Prairie.</em>

It's also easy for readers to plan a road trip tour of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homesites—just like Chloe and Kari did.

Geographically, the Pepin, WI; Burr Oak, IA; Walnut Grove, MN; and De Smet, SD sites form a roughly east-west line, and can be visited in the space of a few days. The Independence, KS and Mansfield, MO sites are often done on a separate trip.

Note: details about each of these sites can be found in the blog posts listed to the left.

I regret to say that circumstances did not allow me to include some relevant historic sites in the book: Vinton, IA (where Mary Ingalls went to school); Spring Valley, MN (where Laura and her husband briefly lived with his parents after their marriage); Keystone, SD (where Carrie Ingalls lived as an adult); and Malone, NY (where Laura's husband Alonzo Wilder grew up). These sites are not shown on the map.

The Past

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

In Death on the Prairie I focus on quilts. Laura mentioned them many times in her books, and was an expert needleworker. When an old family friend gives Chloe a quilt believed to have been owned by the famous children's author, she and her sister Kari set out on a six state road trip to visit the homesites and discover what they can about Laura's quilts.

(For information about reproducing the quilt patterns mentioned in the book, visit the website of quilter Linda Halpin.)

The slideshow above contains historical objects and images I discovered while researching the book. Some of them influenced the story; others appear in it.

Click on any of the images to view larger copies with story-specific descriptions. (Warning: Contains some spoilers.)

And More

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

Larry Meiller Show Larry Meiller
Wisconsin Public Radio
36 Min. 42 sec.
November 17, 2015
(Source)

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Death On The Prairie is available as a trade paperback and in ebook versions. 
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You can request a signed and personalized printed copy from me by clicking HERE.