Trade Paperback
HenschelHAUS Publishing

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.

Thus begins the fourth story in the award-winning Chloe Ellefson series, the twenty-sixth 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 Heritage of Darkness.

Story Description

This book takes place during December 1982 in Decorah, Iowa, with flashbacks to events set in the 1940's to 1960's.

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.

In Decorah, Chloe's resolve to adopt a positive attitude is challenged when she discovers the body of her rosemaling instructor in the museum, stuffed inside an antique immigrant trunk. Then Marit volunteers to teach the dead woman's class, placing Chloe in the hot seat of motherly criticism.

Soon Chloe and Roelke are reluctantly drawn into the investigation. Together and apart they uncover old Norwegian customs―and dark family secrets―that may prove deadly to them all.

Heritage of Darkness is available as a 360-page trade paperback and in ebook versions. Each contains a map, photos, and cast of characters.

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


What Others Are Saying

Photo of Steven L. Johnson, Executive Director, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. 
Steven L. Johnson
Executive Director, Retired
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum

"Few are above suspicion—not even the museum's director!—in this fourth Chloe Ellefson mystery, a totally captivating page-turner that, with Ernst's dextrous artistry, somehow also manages to celebrate the importance of heritage and tradition."
Phot of Dru Ann Love.  Dru Ann Love
Review on Dru's Book Musings Blog

"I love how the chapters flowed from the past to the present from one point of view to another without missing a step. The mystery kept me guessing and I was a bit surprised when the killer was revealed as I didn’t see that one coming. What I like best was we got to know more about Chloe, her mother and Roelke and I’m so glad it ended the way it did." 
Photo of Janice Liedl.  Janice Liedl
Review on Goodreads

"I've steered clear of Kathleen Ernst's mysteries for a few years, mostly because the stories seemed to hit too close to home...I worried she'd get something wrong or make fun of the Norwegian-American culture I knew so well. Nevertheless, I picked this book up and, boy, howdy!, am I glad that I did...Now I have some back-tracking to do: books one, two and three are in my to-read queue and you can bet I'll be looking for another adventure featuring Chloe and Roelke from this fine author."

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 Entries

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

Thumbnail photo of the 1872 painting Åsgårdsreien (The Wild Hunt) by Peter Nicolai Arbo. Christmas Cozy, Christmas Bleak

"Folklore from many cultures recounts efforts to stave away the evil spirits howling through the skies, sometimes known as The Wild Hunt." more>>
Photo by Kathleen Ernst of frost-covered wild seedheads. Happy Solstice!

"Centuries ago, our ancestors built bonfires on the darkest day of winter..." more>>
Photo of immigrant trunk in Norway House exhibit at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Wreaking Havoc

"First, I pick a town and museum or historic site that I love, to serve as the setting. Then, I start making (fictional) trouble... more>>
Photo of Norwegian style chip carved candle plate carved by Ellen Macdonald. Chip Carving

"I knew Roelke McKenna needed to accompany Chloe and Mom to Decorah in Heritage of Darkness. Signing him up for a woodworking class..." more>>
Photo of a Lefse, Rosettes and Swedish Rye sign on window of Schubert’s Diner and Bakery in Mount Horeb, WI. Lefse

"Since a lefse pin spattered with blood is on the cover of my latest Chloe Ellefson mystery, Heritage of Darkness, it’s not much of a spoiler to say..."  more>>
Photo of a plate filled with Norwegian Christmas treats. Very Special Seniors

"Often characters with very small roles prompt the most feedback. And often, those characters are seniors."  more>>
Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst at Vesterhim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. Who Am I?

“It may be subconscious, but we all address that question in a myraid of ways thoughout our lives. And it's a question that museum curator Chloe..." more>>
Color photo of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Why Vesterheim?

Why is the new Chloe book set in Iowa? Why is Chloe crossing the border? Why not explore other sites in Wisconsin?  more>>
Photo of a modern Norwegian Christmas Nisse handing out presents at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Christmas All Year Long

"The book takes place during the first week of December, 1982. Chloe is asked to interview several elderly people about their Christmas traditions. Those traditions shape the plot..." more>>
Photo of a rosemaling instructor's hands, painting. Of Mothers and Daughters

"Chloe’s relationship with her mother is polite, but distant. Mom is a renowned practitioner of rosemaling, a decorative form of Norwegian painting..." more>>
Candles and plate of Norwegian cookies. Photographer unknown. Norwegian Cookies

Chloe writes:  "Almost everyone has favorite food traditions that emerge around the holidays. Even people who don't spend much time thinking about heritage often treasure..." more>>
Partial front cover of the Heritage Of Darkness, the fourth Chloe Ellefson mystery book by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst, published by Midnight Ink. Researching Heritage of Darkness

"Mr. Ernst here. This month the focus is on a surprise that turned up when researching a specific scene in this book, the fourth in Kathleen's award-winning Chloe Ellefson..." more>>
Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst with Joanne MacVey, her first Vesterheim Rosemaling instructor. Heritage of Darkness - A Retrospective

"...was the first to cross state lines. It’s set at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. By the time I started planning..." more>> 

Author's Note

While researching the first Chloe mystery, Old World Murder, I visited Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah to study the ale bowls in their collection, and take a beginning rosemaling class.

I've been back many times since, and quickly decided that Chloe needed to spend time in this special place too.

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.

Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst taking a Rosemaling class at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, where Heritage of Darkness, the fourth book in her award-winning Chloe Ellefson mystery series is set.

I encourage my readers to visit the lovely community of Decorah, explore the museum, enjoy a special event, or take one of the many wonderful folk art classes.

I predict you'll be glad you did.


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.


Heritage of Darkness is the first book in this series to be set outside of Wisconsin. It won't be the last, although I plan to keep Chloe and Roelke firmly rooted at Old World Wisconsin and the Village of Eagle.

In this story, Chloe suggests a trip to Vesterheim with her mother, Marit, a world-class Norwegian Rosemaling painter. Chloe hopes it will help them bond.

Roelke tags along to learn chip carving, and spend some quality time with Chloe. However, this being a murder mystery, things don't go quite as planned.

Marit “All Things Norwegian” Kallerud, is a world class rosemaling painter who has taken and taught Norwegian 'rose painting' classes at Vesterheim for over fifteen years.Roelke McKenna is a mostly self-taught whittler who takes a chip carving class at Vesterheim and discovers pleasure in the precise patterns of this folk art.

In the course of a week Chloe, Marit, and Roelke each face emotional challenges, and danger. Some relationships are strained; others are strengthened.

When things look truly grim, Chloe remembers what Roelke's grandmother used to say: Sometimes the only thing you can do for people you care about is make sure they eat a good meal. Click the download link below to get a copy of the recipe Chloe prepares for Marit.

Swiss Pear Bread Recipe Card CHLOE'S TOMATO SOUP
Chloe loves this warm, hearty, healthy recipe.


Most 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 map to begin your tour.

Decorah, IA

The Past

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

In Heritage of Darkness, Choe and Roelke discover clues hidden in Vesterheim's extensive collection, secrets from the director's past, and the power of darkness in Norwegian folklore.

While researching the novel I discovered a number of remarkable historical 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. (Caution: contains some spoilers.)

And More

You are invited along for a quick glimpse of the Vesterheim Museum rosemaling and wood carving collections. Click the image below to begin the video. (52 sec.)

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 Heritage of Darkness. Click the right-facing arrows to listen.

Lake Effect Audio Clip Mitch Teich
Milwaukee Public Radio
12 min. 30 sec.
December 20, 2013.
Larry Meiller Show Larry Meiller
Wisconsin Public Radio
38 min. 37 sec.
October 22, 2013

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 Heritage of Darkness as a trade paperback from independent book stores and publisher HenschelHAUS.

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.

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