Trade Paperback
HenschelHAUS Publishing
Unabridged Audiobook
Tantor Audio

"THE GUY TRIED USING a pistol?" Roelke McKenna asked, as he opened his locker door.

Thus begins the second story in the award-winning Chloe Ellefson series, the seventeenth 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 The Heirloom Murders.

Story Description

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.

Chloe's growing, but still fragile relationship with police officer Roelke McKenna becomes more complicated by the unexpected arrival of her Swiss ex-boyfriend Markus.

Then someone breaks into her friend Dellyn’s house, a treasure trove of priceless antiques. Was the intruder seeking clues about the missing 16 carat Eagle Diamond, the legendary gemstone unearthed nearby in 1876?

When a murder takes place on the museum grounds, Chloe, Markus, and Roelke are reluctantly drawn together into a deadly mystery involving the stolen diamond, Swiss green cheese, endangered heirloom seeds—and plain old-fashioned greed.

The Heirloom Murders can be ordered as a 360-page trade paperback, and in multiple ebook and 13-hour unabridged audiobook formats. 

For a partial list of vendors offering this story, click HERE.


What Others Are Saying


Image of Council for Wisconsin Writers Award logo.  Ann Powers Fiction Book Award
Council for Wisconsin Writers
Judge's Comments

"...a rich mystery with interesting, captivating characters. The story skillfully weaves Wisconsin history, folk traditions, ethnic cultures, and botany into the plot with aspects of both romance and mystery. It is a delight to read."

Publicity photo of Agatha Award-winning author Jeanne M. Dams. Jeanne M. Dams
Agatha Award-Winning Author
Dorothy Martin and Hilda Johansson Mysteries

The Heirloom Murders has "engaging characters, a fascinating setting, a gripping and believable plot—this is the traditional mystery at its best."

Logo of Kirkus Reviews.  Kirkus Reviews

"Complex characterization...a strong mystery...and interesting historical tidbits."
Image from Mystery Scene Magazine bullet hole banner. Mystery Scene Magazine
Review by Lynne F. Maxwell

"Read The Heirloom Murders for entertainment and edification."
Publisher's Weekly logo. Publisher's Weekly

"Greed, passion, skill, and luck all figure in this surprise-filled outing."
Photo of Dan Fries Dan Freas
Director of Old World Wisconsin

"We need to provide a variety of ways for people to access the past and the Chloe Ellefson books provide a great portal."


About the Author


Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst writes award-winning mysteries, historical fiction, and non-fiction for adults and young readers.

Her work has earned numerous honors, including two lifetime writing achievement awards, an Emmy for educational television, and an Edgar Allan Poe and multiple Agatha Christie mystery award nominations.

To date nearly 1.8 million audio, ebook, and print copies of Kathleen's thirty-eight published books have been purchased. more>>



Related Blog Posts

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

kathleen ernst, chloe ellefson, mystery, old world murder, the heirloom murders, midnight ink, old world wisconsin, history mystery tour, ink spot blog, fiction in real places, Fiction in Real Places

Is it wise to set a murder mystery in a real place? The first book in my Chloe Ellefson series, Old World Murder, is set at a large historic site where I once worked. I used to be a curator at...  more>> 
the heirloom murders, chloe ellefson, Heirloom Flowers, Old World Wisconsin Going, Going, Gone?

One of the great things about writing novels is having the opportunity to explore interesting topics. Since my Chloe Ellefson mysteries are set at historic sites, I have all kinds of opportunities to... more >>
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Since Swiss heritage is a theme in my latest Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mystery, The Heirloom Murders, my husband Scott and I have spent the past couple of years poking around... more >>
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A reader recently asked if the elderly couple in The Heirloom Murders was based on real people. I was delighted with the question. She was speaking of Johann and Frieda Frietag... more >>
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I had lunch this week with two friends who (good pals that they are) told me they loved The Heirloom Murders, my second Chloe Ellefson mystery. They also agreed that they’re ready to see... more >>
the heirloom murders, chloe ellefson Frieda’s Kitchen

If you’ve read the second Chloe Ellefson novel, The Heirloom Murders, you’ve met Frieda Frietag. Frieda is an elderly woman of Swiss descent, living in an old family farmhouse in... more >>
the heirloom murders, chloe ellefson The Old Cheese Factory

I’ve had two wonderful opportunities this fall to see cheese being made as it was back in the day when little cheese huts could be found on many farms in Green County and surrounding...  more >>
Partial image of Seed Savers Exchange 2017 catalogue front cover. Heirloom Gardening

I really didn't know much about the importance of heirloom vegetables, fruits, and flowers until I started working at a large living history museum, Old World Wisconsin. What I've... more>>
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Dellyn Burke writes: Are you dreaming of spring? Here in Wisconsin, it's still distant. If you're a gardener like me, though... more>>
Sasso's Bar in Eagle, Wisconsin. Researching The Heirloom Murders

Mr. Ernst here. This month the focus is on things interesting and indicative that turned up while researching The Heirloom Murders... more>>
Kathleen & 'Mr. Ernst 'doing research' for The Heirloom Murders at The New Glarus Hotel in New Glarus, WI. A Retrospective

Welcome back to the behind-the-scenes look at the Chloe Ellefson mysteries! Up today: The Heirloom Murders, second in the series. I knew where I wanted to go after wrapping up..." more>>

Author's Note

One fun aspect of planning a new book is deciding what themes and ideas to include.

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.

It's important work, as I discovered while tending to the gardens at Old World. 

Then interpreter, now bestselling author Kathleen Ernst of the Chloe Ellefson historic sites mystery series, tending an heirloom garden at Old World Wisconsin in 1982. Photographer unknown.

I also wanted to create two secondary characters who reflect the many wonderful elderly people I met while working there. I’m grateful to all of them for passing along their stories and knowledge.

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.


In The Heirloom Murders the budding—but still quite tentative—romantic relationship between Chloe and Roelke is tested by murderous events, and the unexpected appearance of Chloe's Swiss ex-boyfriend.

By the end of the book, mysteries have been solved and Chloe makes a fateful decision about her future. 

Two of the key secondary characters are Chloe's ex, Markus Meili (who Roelke dubs "Alpine Boy") and her friend, Dellyn Burke, Old World's new master gardener.

Both are passionate about preserving things that are threatened with extinction. Ever since Marcus was a boy he has been fascinated with rare breeds of animals; with Dellyn it has been heirloom plants.

Readers have told me that Johann and Frieda Freitag, the elderly Swiss-American couple, are two of their favorite secondary characters. Help yourself to a copy of a recipe that Frieda shares with Chloe.

the heirloom murders, chloe ellefson, Swiss Pear Bread Recipe FRIEDA'S SWISS

Hearty, moist, 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 that have been created to help you discover them.

The interactive Google map below lets you virtually visit Old World Wisconsin and the Village of Eagle, Wisconsin area.

Click on the map below to begin.

Custom Google Map of Old World Wisconsin and the Village of Eagle Wisconsin.

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

This five-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!

the heirloom murders, chloe ellefson, New Glarus Hotel LOCATIONS GUIDE
Discover the places where
key scenes take place.

The Past

Historical objects, heritage crafts, and traditional foods are staples in my Chloe mysteries—and this one is no exception.

The slide show below includes images of some of the things that I've woven into The Heirloom Murders. Click on any image to see a larger copy with a description. (Caution: contains some spoilers.)

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And More

Two wonderful radio hosts invited me to discuss the book. Thanks to them, and the magic of digital media, you can listen to our conversations about Chloe, Roelke, Old World, Eagle, and New Glarus.

Click the right-facing arrows to listen.

Lake Effect Radio Show, Milwaukee, WI Mitch Teich
Milwaukee Public Radio
8 Min. 32 sec..
March 23, 2012
Larry Meiller Show Larry Meiller
Wisconsin Public Radio
37 Min. 57 sec..
September 27, 2011

But wait, there's more. I have created a Pinterest board about this book, which you can access by clicking on the logo below.

Pinterest logo.

Buy This Book

You can order The Heirloom Murders as a trade paperback from indie bookstores, large chains, and publisher HenschelHAUS.

It is also available as an unabridged audiobook from Tantor Audio. You can listen to a sample of the story below.

Author signed and personalized trade paperback copies can be also acquired directly from me by clicking HERE.

NOTE: Due to a change in publishers, eBook copies are not currently available; they will be re-republished.

HenschelHAUS Publishing logo. TRADE PAPERBACK
Buy from Indiebound Books TRADE PAPERBACK logo TRADE PAPERBACK
Audible logo. AUDIO DOWNLOAD
Apple iTunes Store logo. iBOOKS eBOOK
Books-A-Million logo. TRADE PAPERBACK
Buy from Barnes & Noble NOOK eBOOK
Google Play logo. GOOGLE PLAY eBOOK
 Logo of the Indigo company of Toronto Canada.  TRADE PAPERBACK
Kobo logo. KOBO eBOOK logo. AUDIOBOOK CD