Thursday, October 15, 2015

Please Welcome Mystery Author Kathleen Ernst

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Kathleen Ernst

We are delighted to welcome author Kathleen Ernst to Omnimystery News, courtesy of Great Escapes Book Tours, which is coordinating her current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find her schedule here.

Kathleen's sixth mystery in her Chloe Ellefson series is Death on the Prairie (Midnight Ink; October 2015 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we asked her to give us the backstory to the book. She titles her guest post for us today, "The Hidden History of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Quilts".

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Kathleen Ernst
Photo provided courtesy of
Kathleen Ernst

Anyone with an interest in family history knows how easy it is for information to disappear. When someone dies, a wealth of knowledge dies too.

As a former museum curator, I'm also familiar with the professional frustration that came all too often from not having enough information to fully understand the story behind an artifact, photograph, letter, or other bit of history. Who once owned it, and how did that person feel about it? This was especially true with handmade items, whether a patched apron or an exquisitely carved decorative bowl.

That phenomenon is partly why I began writing the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, featuring a curator who works at one historic site, and often visits others. When I worked in the biz, I often encountered artifacts with no known provenance. No information about the object's origin, or history. I could speculate, but not fabricate.

But as a novelist — oh, the pleasure of making up answers for some of the questions that remain unanswered!

That's certainly true in the latest Chloe Ellefson mystery, Death on the Prairie. A family friend stuns Chloe with the delivery of an antique quilt which, the friend explains, was once owned by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Will Chloe help determine which of the historic sites dedicated to the famous author should be gifted the quilt?

Chloe and her sister Kari set off on a journey they'd longed dreamed of — a road trip to each Wilder homesite. They plan to show the quilt to fellow curators, and learn more about Laura's quilts. Chloe wants to corroborate the precious textile as something Laura once owned — and perhaps even made herself.

Kathleen Ernst
Photo provided courtesy of
Kathleen Ernst

In real life, several Wilder quilts do exist, now displayed at various historic sites and museums in the towns where Laura once lived. Laura had one daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Rose, like her mother, was quite skilled at needlework. Both women made quilts. Rose was an only child, and she took possession of Laura's things after Laura's death. When Rose died Roger MacBride, her lawyer and good friend, inherited her things — including quilts.

And Mr. MacBride discovered that the stories behind some of the quilt were gone forever. When he gifted one quilt to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, WI, he included this note:

"I am sending a quilt that belonged to Laura. Rose gathered it up after Laura's death and took it to her house in Connecticut, where I found it following her death. I have no way of knowing whether Laura had a hand in making it or not. It may well have been a gift to her, or it may have been something she did herself."

Such lost information is frustrating for a curator, but fodder for a novelist. Chloe's yearning to know the truth about her friend's treasured quilt reflects my own yearning, back in my curatorial days, to know the story behind so many beautiful pieces of folk art.

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Kathleen Ernst Book Tour

Kathleen Ernst is a former museum curator who remains passionate about history! In addition to the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites series, she has written many books for American Girl, including nine about the historical character she created, Caroline Abbott. She and her husband live in Wisconsin.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook.

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Death on the Prairie by Kathleen Ernst

Death on the Prairie by Kathleen Ernst

A Chloe Ellefson Mystery

Publisher: Midnight Ink Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)Kobo eBook Format

Chloe Ellefson and her sister, Kari, have long dreamed of visiting each historic site dedicated to Laura Ingalls Wilder. When Chloe takes custody of a quilt once owned by the beloved author, the sisters set out on the trip of a lifetime, hoping to prove that Wilder stitched it herself.

But death strikes as the journey begins, and trouble stalks their fellow travelers. Among the "Little House" devotees are academic critics, greedy collectors, and obsessive fans. Kari is distracted by family problems, and unexpected news from Chloe's boyfriend jeopardizes her own future. As the sisters travel deeper into Wilder territory, Chloe races to discover the truth about a precious artifact — and her own heart — before a killer can strike again.

Death on the Prairie by Kathleen Ernst


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