Set in Green Bay: The Lacemaker’s Secret by Kathleen Ernst

I’m a big fan of the Kathleen Ernst. I met her years ago at a book signing for her children’s books, which my oldest was reading at the time. Then I discovered she wrote an adult mystery series, the Chloe Ellefson books, I gladly picked them up and have enjoyed all of them.

Chloe works at Old World Wisconsin, and as I read the books, they reminded me of Green Bay’s own Heritage Hill State Historical Park.  Chloe has explored Minneapolis, Door County, and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homes, so I had to wonder if she would ever come to Green Bay. The Lacemaker’s Secret is the book that brings her here. Some time is also spent in the Belgian Settlement of northern Brown/southern Door counties, which I also found interesting as some of my Belgian ancestors lived there when they first came to the United States back in the late 1800’s.


I read a lot of history, but I didn’t know much about Belgian lace until I read this book, beyond a Nancy Drew book that I read in my younger days. That’s the thing about Ernst’s books. You learn about some aspect of European pioneers, usually set in Wisconsin, that you might not have known before.

The Lacemaker’s Secret tells two stories. The 1980’s pre-cell phone Chloe, and the story of Seraphine in the late 1800’s, who emigrated from Belgium to southern Door County with her husband. Seraphine learned to make Belgian lace when she was in a convent, and Belgian lace is known the world over. How Seraphine’s story ties to Chloe’s explorations at Heritage Hill is the mystery of the story.

If you haven’t read any other Chloe books, you’d notice that the characters aren’t really fleshed out in The Lacemaker’s Secret. It’s not necessary to read the earlier Chloe books, but it does help with characterization. Most of the way through the book, you might wonder why Chloe’s boyfriend, Roelke, is even there. But as usual, he comes to save the day.

There’s one thing I don’t like about this series is Chloe’s supposed psychic abilities, or sensing abilities.  It seems out of place with what is a very good historical mystery. Luckily, the special senses don’t detract from the story too much. 

Thanks to Net Galley and Midnight Ink for the Advanced Reader’s Copy.

If you’d like to read the other books in the Chloe Ellefson series, click here for more info on all ten titles. The series will continue with a new publisher. The next Chloe Ellefson mystery is expected to be released in the Spring of 2021.

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