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Chloe Ellefson is excited to be learning about Wisconsin’s Cornish immigrants and mining history while on temporary assignment at Pendarvis, a historic site in charming Mineral Point. But when her boyfriend, police officer Roelke McKenna, discovers long-buried human remains in the root cellar of an old Cornish cottage, Chloe reluctantly agrees to mine the historical record for answers.

She soon finds herself in the center of a heated and deadly controversy that threatens to close Pendarvis. While struggling to help the historic site, Chloe must unearth dark secrets, past and present . . . before a killer comes to bury her.

Character Interview with Chloe Ellefson

Chloe, welcome to Island Confidential. Can you tell our readers something about yourself? 

I work as curator of collections at a huge outdoor museum, Old World Wisconsin. As you would guess, I am passionate about history. My special focus is on the 19th-century immigrant experience, especially involving women. I love shining a little lamplight on long-gone everyday women who left no handy diaries or breathtaking folk art behind, but faced and survived extraordinary challenges.

What might come as a surprise is that I attended forestry school at West Virginia University, majoring in environmental education. My background is unusual in the history world, but it helps me understand early settlers within the context of their physical environment. Oh – and it also left me with a blue ribbon in a Jack-and-Jill crosscut saw competition! I’m pretty proud of that.

Who’s the character you get along with the best?

That’s an easy one:  my special guy, Officer Roelke McKenna. He’s a beat cop in the Village of Eagle, close to Old World Wisconsin. He’s nothing like the man I imagined settling down with. He’s a few years younger than me, doesn’t have any particular interest in history, can be a wee bit intense when focused on police work. He’s still working on managing his temper when dealing with bad guys. He also is a man of enormous integrity, who’d do anything to protect someone in need – especially people he loves. In the beginning we didn’t always get along so well…but we grown a lot since then, and I can’t imagine life without him.

Which character do you not get along with so well? 

Equally easy! My boss, Ralph Petty. Petty is a misogynistic megalomaniac with a graduate degree in micromanagement. He’s been on my case since the day I started my job at the site. I try to protect the seasonal employees from the worst of his wrath. I also do my best to protect program integrity in the face of his often-bizarre ideas. He’s already tried to fire me once. I’m committed to Old World Wisconsin, and to living with Roelke at his family farm nearby, so every day at work is like walking a tightrope.

Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author?

For the most part, she does a pretty good job. I sometimes wish she didn’t write about my quirks and personal challenges, but I guess she has to be true to the stories. She doesn’t depict me as some stereotypical ever-brave heroine, but as a real person who tries to do the right thing in sometimes difficult circumstances.

What’s next for you?

Since Ralph Petty’s favorite sight is my tail lights disappearing in the distance, he’s always finding reasons to send me off on special assignment. I’m about to leave for a week’s gig as volunteer curator at another historic site. I’ll be studying the immigration history of an ethnic group that’s new to me, so I’m excited. But I can’t say more than that!

About The Author  

Kathleen Ernst is a social historian, educator, and author. Her Chloe Ellefson mysteries reflect the decade she spent as a curator at a large outdoor museum, and feature historic sites in the Upper Midwest.  Library Journal says, “Ernst keeps getting better with each entry in this fascinating series.” Kathleen has also written many mysteries for young readers.  Honors for her work include a LOVEY Award and Agatha and Edgar nominations.  Kathleen lives and writes in Wisconsin.

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