Death on the Prairie
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #6
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.
Praise For Lies Of Omission“This well-researched and compellingly told tale is a must-read for any fan of nineteenth-century American historical fiction and historical mystery devotees of any era.” Edith Maxwell Agatha Award Winning author Quaker Midwife Mysteries "Lies are the only thing omitted in Lies of Omission, the first book of Kathleen Ernst’s new mystery series featuring Hanneke Bauer. Set in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1855, the rich descriptive details give a glimpse into the Pomeranian immigrants’ home life and farming practices, as well as social issues of the time. As usual for Ernst’s books, the well developed characters make the reader feel like you would recognize them if you met them on the street. Don’t begin the book unless you have time to continue, because it will be hard to put down." Terry Schoessow Co-President Trinity Freistadt Historical Society "Lies of Omission was a wonderful read – the story is riveting and from a personal perspective, it was a wonderful trip back in time in Watertown. From Ms. Ernst’s vivid descriptions of early settlements in Watertown, to her focus on the Rock River, to the incorporation of historical businesses that once existed in this city, the pages of this book came alive to me." Melissa Lampe President Watertown Historical Society
PeopleIn the 19th century, German-speakers were the largest ethnic group to immigrate to the United States and to the state of Wisconsin. The first large wave of settlers arrived between 1846 and 1854. Upon arriving in Wisconsin in 1855, Hanneke finds a well-established and thriving German community in Watertown. Only recently married, she is relieved to have left behind the company of relatives who criticized her for “thinking too much.” Joining her forward-thinking new husband at his farm will, she believes, improve life immeasurably. In the 19th century, it was not unusual for even newly-wed couples like Hanneke and Fridolin to separate for months or even years to accomplish the daunting task of immigrating to far off America. As a capable and intelligent woman willing to confront obstacles, Hanneke is a reflection of determination of countless women to build a new life in a new land.
PlacesMany scenes in Lies of Omission are set in real places, like Watertown, Wisconsin. This is is a 1867 birds eye view map of it.
The PastLies of Omission takes place during the height of the Nativist movement in Wisconsin. Its members were mostly well-established native-born Protestants who did not welcome the growing population of German Catholic immigrants. Originally organized in secret as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, adherents often denied their involvement with the group by claiming to “know nothing” of it. The patriotic period print below is entitled Uncle Sam's Youngest Son and depicts a prosperous Know Nothing Citizen. The Know Nothings were populists—well known for giving fiery speeches and holding torchlit parades that sometimes whipped their supporters into violence. The movement's political wing was founded in 1844 and briefly became a national political force as the American Party in the mid-1850s. Electoral failures and divisions over slavery caused the party to dissolve in 1860. Many Know Nothings in the northern states then switched over to the new Republican Party.
And MoreThe Wisconsin State Journal published an interview about Lies Of Omission with me in its Author Q&A column. You can read it by clicking here. And thanks to the magic of digital media, you can eavesdrop on me discussing Lies Of Omission (and other books) with Larry Meiller and his listeners on his popular midday Wisconsin Public Radio show. A recording of the program has been posted online for you to listen to over the internet or download a copy as a podcast.
Discussion GuideThis is the discussion guide for Lies of Omission. Click Here
Sneak Peek: Chapter 1This is a sneak peek at the book: Lies of Omission Read Chapter 1
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.
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.
Related Blog Posts
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. Since I went into museum work and now earn my living writing historical novels (or, in the case of my Chloe Ellefson series, novels about history), those books and others like them obviously had a big impact on me. Although I’ve lived in Wisconsin for decades now, I only recently made my first visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House Wayside, outside Pepin, WI. My older sister was visiting from the east coast. She loved the books too, so we made our way there to the spot where Little House In The Big Woods was set. The big woods are long gone. Aside from a few trees scattered about the picnic area, the cabin is surrounded by cornfields. (Not suburban sprawl, thank goodness.)
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. The site, however, is well worth a visit.
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 “Explore De Smet,” a walking and driving guide to many of the sites mentioned in, or relevant to, the books set in South Dakota.
Laura Ingalls Wilder: Book 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 the stories on the page, or on the screen? My older sister and I read (and loved) the books as a child in the 1960s.
Researching Death on the Prairie
Mr. Ernst here. As youngsters, Kathleen and her sister Barbara loved the “Little House” books by bestselling children’s author Laura Ingalls Wilder. So much so that as adults they toured the Wilder historic sites together.
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—finding a place to call home.
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 a dugout on a rise above the creek.
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 family briefly made their home.
Bringing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Stories to Life in Quilts – Part 1
Like many, my adventure with Laura started in grade school when I was captivated by her stories. This was long before television brought her to life. She lived in my head, made real by her story telling. As a child, I too began sewing at an early age, so whenever Laura mentioned sewing, it struck a chord. I remember her telling of how Ma expected her to do her job over until it was done well.
I often say that I look for untold stories or little-known events when seeking inspiration for a new book. With the 6th Chloe Ellefson mystery, Death on the Prairie, I took the opposite approach.
Laura Land Tour: Pepin, WI
Thanks for joining me for a blog tour of Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites! Whether you’re an armchair traveler or planning your own road trip, I hope the tour helps you envision the many places Laura called home.
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 These Happy Golden Years were all set in and near De Smet. The First Four Years, published posthumously, also takes place here. And there is a lot for visitors to see.
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. That did not include Mansfield.
Bringing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Stories to Life in Quilts – Part 2
It turns out my connection to Laura wasn’t done. Many years after Quilting With Laura was published, I met Kathleen Ernst in one of my classes. Kathleen had written several books for the American Girl company. My daughter was a big fan of American Girl. It was a line of book characters and dolls that taught history through different eras. Their stories were rounded out by books on cooking, period clothing, and current events. The dolls encouraged imagination as they taught history.