Thursday, June 29, 2017

Retro Rec - June 2017

With a little history, a little mystery and a little romance Kathleen Ernst has successfully penned eight Chloe Ellefson mysteries. She’ll be releasing the highly anticipated eighth book, Mining for Justice, in October. With the next book arriving in a few months, it might be fun to learn a little more about Kathleen and look back at the third Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Light Keeper’s Legacy.

Relax and unwind as we enter Wisconsin’s picturesque Door County, at the historic lighthouse on Rock Island.

Working with historic sites for twelve years, and loving it, inspired Kathleen to write the series, “after moving on, I missed the work, the places, the people involved. Enter Chloe Ellefson, fictional curator.  Every book comes from my heart, and I love having the opportunity to feature different historic places and themes within the series. And goodness, are they ever popular!

It all begins with Chloe. “She is a curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin, where I once worked. When the series begins she is recovering from a series of personal crises, and starting fresh at the historic site. She meets Roelke McKenna, police officer, while investigating a missing artifact.  They have a complicated relationship, but he’s good for her!” 

Chloe is passionate about preserving historic places and telling the stories of people forgotten. Her knowledge of history is needed to help solve the murders presented in each book. For example, in The Light Keeper’s Legacy, she does research on the lighthouse’s past residents as a dead body washes ashore. Kathleen says, “While she and I have some things in common, she is smarter and braver than I am, and much better at speaking her mind.” Which makes her a protagonist you’ll want to stand behind.

It’s September 1982 and museum curator 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.

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. She begins research as Chloe does not believe this is an accidental drowning. Local tensions over Lake Michigan commercial fishing regulations have sparked conflict, and Chloe believes this may be the epicenter of what’s going wrong on this little island.  When Chloe discovers a second body, she finds herself trapped alone with a killer on remote Rock Island.

Kirkus Reviews declares The Light Keeper’s Legacy as, “a good mystery,” along with Library Journal stating, “A haunted island makes for fun escape reading. Ernst’s third amateur sleuth cozy is just the ticket for lighthouse fans and genealogy buffs. Deftly flipping back and forth in time in alternating chapters, the author builds up two mystery cases and cleverly weaves them back together.” And Jane Kirkpatrick, New York Times bestselling author, praises the book with, “Once again in The Light Keeper’s Legacy Kathleen Ernst wraps history with mystery in a fresh and compelling read.” Jane, “[Marvels] at Kathleen’s ability to deepen her series characters while deftly introducing us to a new setting and unique people.”

Kathleen started writing short stories when she was about 10, “I wrote my first novel at 15 (the manuscript was awful, but the experience was empowering). Ten or twelve practice manuscripts later, I got my first book contract. That was twenty-five years and thirty-six books ago!”

She’s often inspired by authors, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Marguerite Henry, and Anya Seton. They showed her, “history is all about stories. I still read a lot of historical fiction, and of course many mysteries. I love mysteries that are character-driven and have a strong sense of place.”

Pick up your copy of The Light Keeper’s Legacy now, or start at the very beginning with Old World Murder!

All are available at Midnight Ink, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and your local bookstore.


Kathleen Ernst is an award-winning and bestselling author, educator, and social historian. She has published over thirty novels and two nonfiction books.  Her books for young readers include the Caroline Abbott series for American Girl.  Honors for her children's mysteries include Edgar and Agatha Award nominations.  Kathleen worked as an Interpreter and Curator of Interpretation and Collections at Old World Wisconsin, and her time at the historic site served as inspiration for the Chloe Ellefson mysteries.  The Heirloom Murders won the Anne Powers Fiction Book Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, and The Light Keeper's Legacy  won the Lovey Award for Best Traditional Mystery from Love Is Murder.  Ernst served as project director/scriptwriter for several instructional television series, one of which earned her an Emmy Award.  She lives in Middleton, Wisconsin.  For more information, visit her online at

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