Trade Paperback
HenschelHAUS Publishing
Unabridged Audiobook
Tantor Audio

"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."

Thus begins the third story in the award-winning Chloe Ellefson series, the twenty-fourth 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 Light Keeper's Legacy.

Story Description

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!

Chloe's research into the island's history turns up fascinating, tough-as-nails women from the past. But her tranquility is spoiled when a dead woman washes ashore. Is it an accidental drowning? Or have local tensions over tighter Lake Michigan commercial fishing regulations reached a dangerous boiling point?

When Chloe discovers a second body, she finds herself trapped alone with a killer on remote Rock Island.

Light Keeper's Legacy can be ordered as a 360-page trade paperback, as well as in multiple ebook and unabridged audiobook formats.

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


What Others Are Saying

Image of Love Is Murder Mystery Conference LOVEY Award. LOVEY Award for Best Traditional Mystery
Love Is Murder Mystery Writers Conference

LOVEY winners are chosen by the readers, writers, agents, and publishers at the annual Love is Murder conference in Chicago, the Midwest's premier mystery, romance, suspense, thriller gathering.
Publicity 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

"In the fashion of Barbara Kingsolver, Kathleen weaves contemporary conflicts of commercial fishing, environmentalists, sport fisherman and law enforcement into a web of similar conflicts in the 1880s... I ignored food so I could finish this third Chloe Ellefson mystery."
Kirkus Reviews logo. Kirkus Reviews

"Combines a good mystery with some interesting historical information..."
Image from Mystery Scene Magazine bullet hole banner. Mystery Scene Magazine
Review by Lourdes Venard

"While the mystery elements of this book are very good, what really elevates it are the historical tidbits... Such rich historical details shine a light on a fascinating slice of American history."
Color photo of Larry Meiller, host of The Larry Meiller show on Wisconsin Public Radio. Larry Meiller
Host of The Larry Meiller Show
Wisconsin Public Radio

"I just love this book, and I'm pretty sure you're gonna enjoy it too. In fact I'd bet money on it."
Great Lakes Historical Society Inland Seas' journal logo Inland Seas' Journal
Great Lakes Historical Society
Review by Jacqueline Justice

"...a story that is both suspenceful and engaging, gracefully weaving historic elements and contemporary concerns into the mystery."
image of the Escape With Dollycas Blog logo. Lori Caswell
Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book Blog 

"Kathleen has a way of mixing historic times and places with bold characters to create wonderful, well crafted and captivating."

Photo of Kirby Foss in his Wisconsin DNR Ranger uniform. Kirby Foss
Rock Island State Park Manager (retired)

"A fun and interesting read, with a great understanding of island history and the commercial fishing industry."


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.

Photo of site of former fishing village on Rock Island, Wisconsin. The Empty Meadow

I had intended to write a novel “just” about Pottawatomie Lighthouse in Rock Island State Park. Why look any farther? Pottawatomie has it all... more>>
Author Kathleen Ernst in circa 1910 clothing examining the library box at Pottawatomie Lighthouse on Rock Island, WI. The Library Box

What did the library box look like? The question came up last week when I visited a book group to discuss the 3rd Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Light Keeper’s Legacy. A library box is... more>>
Historic photo of Pottawatomie Lighthouse on Rock Island, Wisconsin, in Lake Michigan. When Past and Present Collide

I’ve been a history junkie since childhood. My librarian-mom kept me supplied with historical fiction, and family vacations always included stops at historic sites and museums. As an adult...  more>> 
kathleen ernst, chloe ellefson, the light keeper's legacy, mystery, midnight ink, danish needle lace, hedebosøm, hedebo, killer crafts & crafty killers blog, Danish Needle Lace

Handwork in all its many forms is dear to my heart, as I’ve discussed here before in 2010 and 2011. I love featuring different types of crafts in my books. As a former museum curator, and... more>>
Photo of bestselling author Kathleen Ernst in 1910-era clothing by a cast iron stove in Pottawatomie Lighthouse on Rock Island, WI. Cast Iron and Memories

Pottawatomie Lighthouse, the oldest light station in Wisconsin, sits on top of a bluff on Rock Island, in lake Michigan. Rock Island is now a state park, and it provides the setting for my latest Chloe... more>>
Women at the Lights

When Scott and I began serving as volunteer docents at Pottawatomie Lighthouse (Rock Island State Park, Lake Michigan, WI), I was delighted to learn that two of the Keeper’s wives officially served as Assistant Keepers... more>>
Pottawatomie Lighthouse, Rock Island, Wisconsin Water, Water Everywhere,
Nor Any Drop To Drink

So said Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his famous ballad, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I suspect that some of the former light keepers at Pottawatomie Lighthouse (Rock Island, WI) muttered... more >>
Link to Docent Duty blog post Docent Duty

My husband Scott and I are recently back from our 4th stint as docents at Pottawatomie Lighthouse in Rock Island State Park, WI. Rock Island is situated off the northern tip of... more >>
Painting of a 19th Century Danish woman repairing fishing nets. Artist unknown. Ragna's Tale

Ragna (pronounced Ron-yah) writes: "I didn't expect to become one of the best net makers on Rock Island. To my surprise, I did. Everyone says so. I need only three days to make..." more>>
the light keepers legacy, chloe ellefson, Ken Koyen, Restaurant, Friday Night Fish Boil Last Link in the Chain?

Last week Scott and I vacationed on Washington Island, WI, off the tip of Door County in Lake Michigan. While having dinner at KK Fiske Restaurant, we heard something startling... more >>
the light keepers legacy, chloe ellefson, Angostura Bitters at Nelsen's Hall Joining the Club

People who live on Washington Island, off the northern tip of Door County, WI, have been known to tell newcomers that they won’t be true islanders until they stop at Nelsen’s Hall for a shot of... more >>
Docents at Pottawatomie Lighthouse, Rock Island, Wisconsin. Photo by Kay Klubertanz. Researching Light Keeper's

This article explores examples of how technical research and photographic documentation were used to help Kathleen write the award-winning... more>> 
Docent Scott Light Keeper's - A Retrospective

When publisher Midnight Ink picked up the first book in the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series, Old World Murder, I was given a two-book contract. After turning in the second book I wrote... more>>

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.

For one week each summer we lived in the beautifully restored 1858 lighthouse, giving tours during the day and enjoying Lake Michigan's many wild and peaceful moods in the evenings. 

Award-winning bestselling author Kathleen Ernst looking over the Rock Island Passage between Lake Michigan and the Bay of Green Bay. Photo by Scott Meeker.

The island’s human history is fascinating; it was inevitable that I get Chloe there.

Large parts of the book were written at the lighthouse and nearby Washington Island. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did researching and creating it.

Visit the lighthouse and take a tour! 

          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.


Museum curator Chloe Ellefson and police officer Roelke McKenna are the two main characters in this series.

In The Light Keeper's Legacy the spotlight is mostly on Chloe. She heads to Rock Island, hoping that time away from Roelke will help clarify her feelings about him. What kind of relationship does she want?

Events intervene—it is a murder mystery, but by book's end Chloe and Roelke find a measure of contentment—for the moment.

This enlarged portion of a summer 1883 photo shows Emily Betts and two of her children in the front doorway of the Pottawatomie Lighthouse, Rock Island, Wisconsin. (National Archives, image 26-LG-56a-87-ac.)This painting of a Danish woman mending a fishing net inspired author Kathleen Ernst when was creating the Ragna Anderson character in <em>The Light Keeper's Legacy.</em>

At the heart of the mystery are a pair of strong secondary characters from the past: Emily Betts and Ragna Anderson.

Emily is a real person who was Assistant Lighthouse Keeper from 1872 to 1882. Ragna (pronounced Ron-yah), a Danish immigrant, is a fictional character. Their friendship connects the lighthouse to the island's fishing village.

Ragna brought from Denmark a recipe for Aeblekage (Apple Cake). This is a quick and tasty dessert, consisting of applesauce and sweetened crumbs layered in a dish. Help yourself to a copy of Ragna's recipe.

 Image of a recipe card. DANISH APPLE CAKE
Quick, easy, delicious.


My stories are set in places that I love. That's especially true for this book.

The settings in The Light Keeper's Legacy are real. Almost all of them still exist and can be visited. These two resources will help you discover them.

The interactive Google map below lets you virtually visit Washington and Rock Islands, where I set most of the story. Click on the map to begin.

Washington and Rock Islands - Door County, Wisconsin

The Locations Guide below was created to help you plan, and get the most out of, an in-person Chloe tour of the islands.

This guide contains lots of photos, maps, and descriptions. It also includes advice on when to visit, how to get there, and some of my favorite places to eat and stay.

Take this free, 13-page PDF file with you on paper or your mobile device.

Enjoy your visit to the islands!

 the light keepers legacy, chloe ellefson, Rock Island Lighthouse LOCATIONS GUIDE
Discover the places where
key scenes take place.

The Past

History is a strong and essential element in each Chloe Ellefson mystery.

In The Light Keeper's Legacy, past events on Rock Island hold important clues that help Chloe solve a modern mystery.

While researching the novel I discovered a number of evocative historical documents, images, and objects. Some appear in the book, while others influenced the story.

The slideshow below contains some of my favorites. Click on any image to see larger size copies of the slides, with descriptions. (Caution: contains some spoilers.)

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And More

Too often my research and writing duties preclude me from accepting invitations to speak with groups of mystery readers.

However, two wonderful radio hosts invited me to discuss the book. Thanks to their generosity, and the magic of digital media, you can listen to our conversations about Chloe and Roelke, Ragna and Emily, Rock Island, and the lighthouse.

Click the right-facing arrows to listen.

Lake Effect Audio Clip Stephanie Lecci
Milwaukee Public Radio
17 min. 08 sec.
August 7, 2013.
Larry Meiller Show logo Larry Meiller
Wisconsin Public Radio
36 min. 41 sec.
October 29, 2012.

But wait, there's still more. I've 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 Light Keeper's Legacy as a trade paperback from independent book stores 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

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