It’s All About Power—and a Giveaway!

Kathleen Ernst 2Tradition 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 Tradition of Deceita 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.


I’m grateful to Lelia for allowing me to celebrate
publication of Tradition of Deceit by guest-posting
on her marvelous blog. And I’m grateful to readers!
I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you.
Leave a comment here, and your name will go into a
drawing for a free book. The winner will be chosen
Friday evening, November 7th, and can choose any
title in the Chloe Ellefson mystery series.
This drawing is open to residents of North America. To
learn more, visit

42 thoughts on “It’s All About Power—and a Giveaway!

  1. Congratulations on number 30, Kathleen! I admire you and love your books. I devour your Chloe books, but especially love introducing children to your American Girl books. Caroline Abbott is a girl for the ages!


    • You’re so kind, Molly! Historical fiction hooked me as a child, and I love thinking that in my own small way I can pass some of that on to girls today. By the way, eagerly waiting to get my hands on a copy of your new book!


  2. Any opportunity to become acquainted with an author is always appreciated. Enjoyed your article and would be pleased to read & review one of your books. Presume reading out of order would not be amiss so would choose to read your latest.


  3. This would be a new to me series. I am a book addict, and after reading the introduction, I know this would be a series I love. I regret the fact I have missed the series so far….but that can be remedied.


  4. I like to discover new books and would love to begin reading this series. I so love mysteries and this series sounds like something I would truely enjoy.


  5. I absolutely love the Chloe books! I am so excited to start a new one…and then sad when I finish them so quickly! Chloe and Roelke feel like friends now, and I’m always looking forward to seeing what they do next! Also, finding more of your books for students is on my to-do list!


    • Thanks so much, Brenda! I’m so glad Chloe and Roelke have come to feel as real to you as they do to me. I’m working hard on their next adventure! And thanks too for your support regarding my books for young readers – may they inspire kids to love reading and history as much as we do!


  6. Love the Chloe series. As a native of Milwaukee makes the upcoming book enticing. Thank you for the enjoyment reading the Chloe series brings. I love the series as the characters become friends and every new book is a reconnection.


    • Thanks so much! I really enjoyed having the chance to spotlight some of Milwaukee’s history in the new book, specifically the Old South Side neighborhood. I hope you enjoy that one especially!


  7. So far, there’s been no murders at the historic site I work at, although I certainly appreciate Chloe’s desire to keep her job and do good work in spite of a difficult boss. In way, she’s become one of my favorite career counselors!


  8. The Chloe series is very good and Deceit may be the best yet. For those of you new to the series, I suggest reading in order so that you can enjoy Chloe’s and Roelke’s character development over time.


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