Tradition of Deceit is Kathleen Ernst’s thirtieth book. 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. Over 1.5 million copies of Kathleen’s titles have been sold. The Chloe series has earned a LOVEY Award for Best Traditional Mystery, and several of her mysteries for young readers have been finalists for Edgar or Agatha awards.
As a reader, I need to make a personal connection with a character before I want to share their journey. As a writer, I’ve thought a lot about what makes that happen.
Often a human emotion creates the bond. We all know what joy and grief feel like, and when we sense that a character experiences those things in the same way we do, a link is forged. In other cases, a book’s theme can resonate—even if the time and place are unfamiliar.
I write the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries, and long before I work out the specific details of plot, I play around with broader ideas in a notebook. My protagonist is a curator at an outdoor museum. My second primary recurring character, Roelke McKenna, is a police officer. Where are they emotionally as the new book begins? What theme will help drive the mystery—and reflect Chloe and Roelke’s personal growth?
The latest book, Tradition of Deceit, is all about power.
Chloe is in Minneapolis, helping a friend write a proposal to turn an abandoned flour mill into a museum, when the body of a professor is discovered in a piece of milling equipment. Roelke is in Milwaukee, struggling to discover who killed his best friend and fellow cop. A historical plotline about several generations of Polish-American women is braided with those storylines, and provides a link between the two cities and two murders.
A dead academic in one city, a dead police officer in another, and the struggles of a newly-arrived Polish immigrant in 1870…on the surface, the problems confronted in the three plotlines might seem to have nothing in common. But at the heart of each is a question of power. Who has it? Who tries to protect it? Who abuses it? Who feels helpless when confronting it? Who wants to get it? Who fights to overcome it?
I love writing about other times and other cultures. Each book in the Chloe Ellefson series explores different historical settings and stories, often the many struggles women faced in the past. Chloe’s knowledge of history is necessary to help solve crimes committed in her own time.
But Chloe has her own struggles too, including a difficult relationship with her boss. He’s a jerk, but because she wants to keep her job, he has power. (Although series readers know that Chloe walks a fine line with Director Ralph Petty!)
Everyone knows what it feels like to clash with someone who, for whatever reason, wants to abuse his or her power—physical, familial, financial, cultural, social, professional, or otherwise. I hope that shared experience will help readers identify with very dissimilar characters in Tradition of Deceit, create an emotional bond, and add a layer of depth to the mystery. Happy reading!
From the Publisher:
Curator and occasional sleuth Chloe Ellefson is off to Minneapolis to help her friend Ariel with a monumental task. Ariel must write a proposal for a controversial and expensive restoration project: convert an abandoned flour mill, currently used as shelter by homeless people, into a museum. When a dead body is found stuffed into a grain chute, Chloe’s attention turns from milling to murder.
Back in Milwaukee, Chloe’s love interest Roelke has been slammed with the news that a fellow officer was shot and killed while on duty. Sifting through clues from both past and present, Chloe and Roelke discover dangerous secrets that put their lives—and their trust in each other—at risk.