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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.
Writing the 1980s
Mining For Justice, the 8th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, is set in 1983. In the years I’ve been writing the series, one of the most common question I hear is, “Why set the books in the 1980s?”
The first reason is simple. Chloe Ellefson is a curator at a large living history site called Old World Wisconsin. That happens to be the same place where I worked as a curator in the 1980s and early 1990s. I’m writing about the outdoor museum world as I remember it. I write about historic places and themes that I felt passionate about thirty-plus years ago—and still do today.
Second, I’m writing about real historic sites and museums. These are places with which many people already have a personal relationship. They grew up visiting, or they take their families every year, or they share whenever out-of-town guests arrive. Even though I’m writing fiction, I want to put some space between museum visitors and murder.
Third, I love writing about an amateur sleuth who does not have instant access to the internet. Chloe investigates with her well-developed research skills, and in every story, her knowledge of the past provides vital clues for solving the contemporary (relatively speaking) mystery. It’s also a lot easier to get her in trouble if she can’t whip out a cell phone!
Finally, I’ve learned that many readers enjoy the nostalgia. Often readers are tickled to find references to an old favorite song, a certain make of car, an archaic piece of equipment. (Of course, younger readers are sometimes curious about those very details. One was stymied when Chloe wrapped a phone cord around her finger while conversing. Phone cord? What’s a phone cord?)
And it isn’t just readers’ nostalgia! I loved working at the living history site, and writing the series brings back happy memories. Mining For Justice is set Pendarvis — a sister site in Mineral Point, WI. Cornish immigrants were among the people who turned a raw mining camp into a community in the 1830s, and a number of their original homes have been preserved. When I arrived in Wisconsin in 1982, Pendarvis was one of the first historic sites I visited, and it was charming. I’ve had a wonderful year immersing myself in community lore and traditions while researching and writing the mystery.
My primary goal is always to write a good story, with complex characters, a plot that keeps readers guessing, and a strong sense of place. Whether the 1980s setting provides a few memories or a glimpse of history, I hope you enjoy Mining For Justice!
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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