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Old World Murder (A Chloe Ellefson Mystery) Paperback – October 8, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ernst, the author of Clues in the Shadows and other YA American Girl novels, shows her ease in mining historical periods in her adult debut, set in Wisconsin in 1982. On Chloe Ellefson's first day as the new curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor museum that recreates the 1870s, elderly Berget Lundquist asks Chloe for the return of a family heirloom, a hand-painted Norwegian ale bowl that Berget donated to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in 1962. Within minutes of Chloe promising to locate the bowl, Berget dies after driving her car off the road into a tree. The fatal bludgeoning of Berget's aged neighbor, Bill Solberg, by a person hunting for the elusive bowl leads Chloe to suspect the item has some special value. While details of the Old World museum can overwhelm at times, clever plot twists and credible characters make this a far from humdrum cozy.
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From Booklist

Chloe Ellefson, coming off a bout of clinical depression, has just started her new job as curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor historical museum, when Berget Lundquist asks her to return a hand-painted Norwegian ale bowl she donated more than 20 years ago. Chloe brushes Lundquist off, promising to locate the bowl, but when the woman dies in an auto accident, Chloe feels she must keep her word. However, the bowl seems to be missing, so Chloe delves into the museum’s acquisition documents, the state historical society’s records, and Mrs. Lundquist’s motivation for the return of the bowl, all of which lands her in the middle of a potentially deadly situation. Information on how to conduct historical research, background on Norwegian culture, and details about running an outdoor museum frame the engaging story of a woman devastated by a failed romantic relationship whose sleuthing helps her heal. --Sue O'Brien

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Product Details

  • Series: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Midnight Ink; Original edition (October 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780738720876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738720876
  • ASIN: 0738720879
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst is the award-winning writer of adult mysteries, historical fiction, and non-fiction history books for adults and young readers. Her latest are "A Settler's Year: Pioneer Life Through The Seasons" published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, and "Death on the Prairie," the sixth Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery for adults published by Midnight Ink Books.

Over the years Kathleen's work has earned numerous honors, including an Emmy, a LOVEY, and Edgar and Agatha mystery award nominations. To date, readers have purchased 1.6 million printed, electronic, and audio copies of her thirty-three published books.

Kathleen has a Masters Degree in History Education and Writing from Antioch University, where her self-designed program focused on nontraditional methods of teaching and learning history, with a special emphasis on historical fiction. She spent over a decade as a Curator of Interpretation and Collections at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin's Old World Wisconsin outdoor museum, a job that provided great material for her novels.

She lives near Madison, Wisconsin with her husband Scott (AKA "Mr. Ernst") and Sophie the cat. Some of her greatest pleasures include gardening, learning folk crafts, traveling to research new books, and hearing from readers. To that end, she maintains an extensive website,, an author's page on Facebook,, and a blog,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Shirven on September 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
Kathleen Ernst's first adult novel is a great read. Chloe Ellefson is a newly hired curator at Old World Wisconsin, an actual pioneer living history museum in the Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin. She starts off not only with the challenge of putting to order the museum's artifact collections, but also putting her personal life to order after the break-up of a difficult romance. Add to that some difficult staff supervisors, missing artifacts, and even possible murders to deal with. You can easily picture the museum settings of lanes leading to pioneer homes and log cabins, and settlers in period clothing working in the homes and fields. The settings and characters are beautifully developed. The plot has many interesting twists and turns. Throw in some humor and lots of mystery, adventure, and personal challenges, and you have a great read. Towards the end, I had to stay up way past my bedtime to find out "who done it." I hope another Chloe Ellefson book is in the making. I can't wait to find out what happens next. Charlotte Shirven
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By John F. Lehman on September 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a masterly presented mystery of seemingly unconnected elements. Chloe Ellefson, a woman trying to leave painful memories behind, her begins work as collections curator at an ethnic museum. An elderly lady begs her to find an item the she has donated 20 years earlier but before the heirloom can be returned the lady dies suspiciously. That's when guilt, suspicion and surprising revelations begin.

This book entices the reader into some unexpected depths, and it is these complications rather than the answer to a "who done it" plot that is so memorable. What is Chloe's past? Why does the lady need to have her artifact back? How are we shaped by the choices we make? The setting, characters and Midwest values are as authentic as could be (author Kathleen Ernst, herself, worked as a curator at Old Wisconsin). Our expectations are high, but she delivers.

I love the stuff about new job anxiety, relationships, parents, and even the mention of a bakery down the road from where I live. Like other treasures--Chinatown, The Long Good-bye, The Maltese Falcon--we are in the dark most of the journey. The dénouement of the last fifty pages drags on a bit, but the final sentence will send you looking for the next book in this series. Guaranteed! I don't know about Chloe Ellefson's tenure, but mystery writer Kathleen Ernst is here to stay.

- John Lehman, Rosebud Book [...]
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Esther Schindler TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
Kathleen Ernst does a few unusual things in this mystery novel, and all of them work in her favor. The end result is a book that is perfect for a rainy-day afternoon in front of the fireplace: Interesting characters, a non-obvious plot, and history that engaged me. This isn't "Oh you absolutely must read this!" material but mystery fans will say, "How nice!" I know I did.

Basic summary: It's 1982, and Chloe Ellefson is ready for a new start. She takes a job as collections curator at Old World Wisconsin -- which is a real place, the author assures us, an "outdoor ethnic museum" that makes me think of Old Williamsburg Virginia, Pioneer Village outside Phoenix, Volksbaurnhof in Gutach Germany, and other "historical enactment" museums. (My ease in mentioning examples demonstrates that I love such places; the staff "dress up" in period costume and show how people of that time lived and worked.) On Chloe's first day, an old woman visits her to ask for the return of an "ale bowl" she donated years earlier. Chloe, still lost in "first day on the job" confusion, tells her she probably can't get it back but will find the bowl for her. And just a few minutes later, driving back home, the old woman dies...

Old World Murder has all the elements of a cozy mystery novel, including a heroine with a perfectly good reason to get to the bottom of the mystery and a handsome young policeman. However, Ellefson does a far better job than usual in coming up with a reason for Chloe to hare around the countryside looking for the ale bowl. She also gives the main characters more realistic and poignant motivations for their "I'm ready to start over" motivations.

Plus, of course, the history is presented in an unusual way.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ronna on October 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book had some very interesting information about how historic sires are run, and how old pieces are stored, catalogued, and donated for preservation and display. Unfortunately for me, I found the characters unappealing. A bit whiny and negative . Stubbornness can be good if you're determined to accomplish something, but continued stubbornness in needlessly dangerous situations just seeped stupid in this story. Perhaps a better, more through, background story about our main character in her better times would have given me a reason to cheer her on. Hopefully, this series gets better with book two, where it seems like a couple of the characters are going to be working together without the negative tension.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. Baker on February 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The mystery and the plot developed well, with clues coming along at intervals that kept me interested. However, when the mystery was finally revealed, the pace quickened too rapidly so that it lost depth. However, the real disappointment in the book was the characters. Good characters need fatal flaws to be believable and interesting. However, her characters were too grim. They were all full of fatal flaws that overwhelmed any redeeming quality of character. There was one character however that had not a single flaw: the gay smokejumper from Idaho. Give me a break.
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