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Old World Murder
Chloe Ellefson Mystery #1

This book takes place during May, 1982 at Old World Wisconsin (a large outdoor history museum), the nearby villages of Eagle and Palmyra, and the community of Daleyville in Dane County, Wisconsin.

Trying to leave painful memories behind, Chloe Ellefson is making a fresh start as the new collections curator at Old World Wisconsin. On her first day an elderly woman begs Chloe to find a priceless Norwegian ale bowl donated to the museum years ago. Chloe promises to look, but within minutes the woman dies in a suspicious car wreck. At the crash scene Chloe meets handsome young cop Roelke McKenna.

When Chloe reports the missing artifact to her boss, Ralph Petty, he orders her to drop the matter. She feels honor-bound to find the bowl, and quietly begins researching its history. Chloe's search quickly turns dangerous—and not just in terms of her job status. Someone is trying to cover up all traces of the bowl's existence, by any means necessary.

Chloe is a dedicated social historian, and a reluctant sleuth. Roelke is a dedicated police officer, with little insight into Chloe's world. Despite their differences, Roelke's past, and his attraction to Chloe, compel him to assist and protect her. Together this unlikely pair must solve a decades-old puzzle in order to catch a covetous killer—before Chloe becomes history herself.

Old World Murder can be ordered as a 325-page trade paperback, and in multiple ebook and 10.5 hour unabridged audiobook formats.

  • 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
  • People
    In 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.
  • Places
    Many 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 Past
    Lies 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 More
    The 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 Guide
    This is the discussion guide for Lies of Omission. Click Here
  • Sneak Peek: Chapter 1
    This is a sneak peek at the book: Lies of Omission Read Chapter 1


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 to assist you to virtually or physically visit these settings.

The custom map below enables you to virtually visit Old World and Eagle.

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

This four-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!

Locations Guide

Related Blog Posts

Coming Full Circle

Churning at Schultz

I worked at Old World Wisconsin for twelve years. During those years I developed my writing skills, as well.

An Ale Bowl With Cow Heads

Ale bowl with cow heads

When Old World Murder was published, my husband Scott suggested that we commission a carver and painter to create the bowl described in the novel.

The Nite Cap Inn – Then and Now

The Nite Cap Inn sign

Before Old World Murder was published, several people asked if writing about real places made me nervous.

A Retrospective

Old farmstead

Thanks for joining me as we take a behind-the-scenes look back at the Chloe Ellefson mysteries! First up: Book 1, Old World Murder.

Old World Wisconsin - In Chloe's Day

Shultz Farm

I sometimes forget how much Old World Wisconsin has changed in the past few decades, so I thought it would be fun to share some photos of the site in the early years.

Rosemaling Through Time

Kathleen Ernst making art in an art room.

My protagonist is a Norwegian-American museum curator named Chloe Ellefson. Chloe’s mom is an expert rosemaler.

More Than I Was Looking For


The plot of Old World Murder revolves around an antique Norwegian ale bowl. I’ve always been intrigued by the beautifully carved and/or painted bowls.

About Those Trailers...

Shultz Farm

Readers sometimes wonder if I exaggerated the artifact storage conditions when I wrote Old World Murder.

Ale Bowls: Migration of a Tradition

Ale Bowls: Migration of Tradition

When I was developing the plot for Old World Murder, I needed a Norwegian artifact for a major plot point. I chose to feature an ale bowl.

Researching Old World Murder

Field with a church in the background

Mr. Ernst here. Extensive research is an important element in crafting the ‘people, places, and the past’ that appear in every Chloe Ellefson mystery, starting with the first...

Where to buy the book

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

It is also available as an unabridged audiobook from publisher Tantor Audio. Listen to a sample of the story below.

Author signed and personalized trade paperback copies can be also requested through our Contact Us Form.

Book SampleTantor Audio
00:00 / 03:17
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