I went into the book, “Old World Murder”, expecting quite a bit. I mention this because of my love of history, the fact I live in Wisconsin and I am part Norwegian. So when I saw a murder/mystery that takes place in a living history site in Wisconsin that uses Norwegian heritage in the back story I was naturally curious. I should also mention the fact I live within a few miles of a living heritage site as well.
So, one can imagine that with those high expectations there was a lot to be met when it c ame to reading the book written by Kathleen Ernst. According to the books bio page this was her first adult mystery novel after writing books for children and young adults.
I went into the novel reading how the story will follow the life of Chloe Ellefson and her challenges as she takes a new job at Old World Wisconsin. Her new job, curator of collections, will lead her to some conflicts with others on the staff at Old World.
Ralph Petty, her boss, gives her some orders which she fails to follow but instead does her own thing. Head of Interpreters also ends up on that list of people she irritates, and before her first few days are over there is one important person she lets down.
This individual is the very sweet Mrs. Lundquist who had donated a beautiful hand-painted Norwegian ale bowl with cow heads. An older woman that it is hard not to feel pain for as she is alone in the world having lost her son in Vietnam and her husband is also deceased. The bowl she wanted back was made in the nineteenth century and Mrs. Lundquist desperately wants the family artifact back.
The problem is that after an item is donated, it cannot be returned to its original owner and Chloe breaks the old woman’s heart by telling her this. Sadly Chloe does not find out how literal her heart broke till on her drive home she comes across a car accident and there is Mrs. Lundquist’s car, and she is now dead. This sets Chloe on a journey to find the ale bowl that will have her running straight into the life of Deputy Roelke McKenna.
What is very interesting about this book is how the characters you find inside are not perfect but all have their own flaws. Chloe should be a happier person as she’s moved closer to home and has a job she wanted. The problem after a very painful experience overseas she is clinically depressed. She also does not seem to be the best “people” person as she isn’t great with names and seems challenged by a young black woman (Tanika “Nika” Austin), her intern. Nika being more outgoing and has a keen mind and drive that Chloe wishes she had at this point in her life.
It’s after we get introduced to the main characters in the book that things start to get really interesting for Chloe. As she struggles to find the ale bowl she begins to sift through more of the Old World property and begins to find a mystery. The bowl is no-where to be found and she begins to sense someone else is looking for it.
A broken lock to her make shift office, foot prints in a dusty room, a near break in at her home and other events draws a wider shadow over that ale bowl. These events will push Chloe even harder in her search to find the missing bowl. Chloe believes she owes it to the old woman to at least find the bowl and put it on display in one of the Old World Wisconsin’s homes.
The mystery continues within the Old World Murder and the reader will learn not only who did it, but the site itself. People will find the book interesting not just for the characters, the story, but the uncovering of how the site works.