Many years ago I used to take the kids to any story time I could find, whether it was at a library branch or at the local Barnes and Noble. At the time, B&N also had many author events, too. Most of them didn’t interest me, but then I saw that the author of about 20 American Girl books was going to make an appearance. Since my oldest daughter really enjoyed those books, I took my three girls to the event and met Kathleen Ernst. It was then that I discovered she wrote a mystery series for adults set in 1980’s Wisconsin. I was immediately a fan. The Weaver’s Revenge (Amazon) is the latest in the Chloe Ellefson series. It was released in May by Henschel HAUS Publishing.
“A Killer Weaves a Deadly Blend of Betrayal and Revenge that Threatens Chloe’s Work … and Her Life
When offered a rare opportunity to help develop a fledgling historic site dedicated to Finnish American history and heritage, curator Chloe Ellefson journeys to the remote Northwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
In addition to the consultant job, she’s on a personal quest to learn about the enduring tradition of rag rug weaving. Encountering a dead body upon arrival, however, immediately puts that goal in jeopardy. Although suspicion soon falls on her new colleagues, Chloe is determined to persevere … even if it means ignoring the advice of her new husband, police officer Roelke McKenna. Can she identify the killer and complete her mission, or will all her dreams unravel?”
There are a lot of things going on in The Weaver’s Revenge that gave me all the feels. First, it takes place in the U.P., otherwise known as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where both my parents were born. Second, as with most Chloe Ellefson books, you get to learn more about a dying art, in this case, rag rugs. Third, Ernst’s books also shed light on the history of the northern European immigrants’ experience in their homeland, what brought them to Wisconsin, and their lives afterward. This time, the focus is on the Finnish immigrant experience.
My mother’s mother was Belgian but lived in the U.P. long enough that she had a loom much like the ones described in the book and made rag rugs. So learning more about this craft that my own grandma did but never had a chance to teach me was enlightening. I had no idea until reading the book that rag rugs were most popular with the Finnish people, of which there are a lot of descendants living in the U.P.
Ernst has become a master of weaving historical facts through the lives of people in the late 19th and early 20th century, along with a nostalgic look at historical sites in the 1980’s, pre-cell phones and other technology that’s not needed to tell the story. The author spent many years working at Old World Wisconsin, an historical state park, at about the same time and no doubt draws upon her experiences to tell Chloe’s story.
Besides all this history-as-fiction presented, there’s a murder to solve. Chloe always seems to stumble upon dead bodies wherever she goes, and this book is no exception. It turns out the murder victim was not well-liked by anyone in the area, but she was a master rag rug weaver. There’s no end as to who could have done it, but things get more complicated when there’s a second murder. Chloe has to rely on her smarts to solve the mystery since her cop husband, Roelke, is back and home and can’t help.
The Weaver’s Revenge is also a little different than other Chloe Ellefson books because it was released by a new publisher. One major change that I wholeheartedly agree with is the absence of Chloe’s “special gift” of being able to sense through some psychic abilities the feelings remaining in old buildings. I never felt like that supernatural addition added anything to the stories despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of Barbara Mertz’s work under the pen name, Barbara Michaels, who told stories with a slightly supernatural bend. In Chloe’s case, it was superfluous, and I’m happy to see that element gone. Without it, I thought the story was stronger than previous Chloe books.
You certainly don’t have to read the other books in the series to enjoy The Weaver’s Revenge, but I highly recommend them if you want to learn more about the history of European immigrants in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota. The first book is called Old World Murder (Amazon)
You can stay connected to Kathleen Ernst through her blog, Sites and Stories as well.
For more reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com
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