Chloe Ellefson and her sister, Kari, have long dreamed of visiting each historic site dedicated to Laura Ingalls Wilder. When Chloe takes custody of a quilt once owned by the beloved author, the sisters set out on the trip of a lifetime, hoping to prove that Wilder stitched it herself.
But death strikes as the journey begins, and trouble stalks their fellow travelers. Among the “Little House” devotees are academic critics, greedy collectors, and obsessive fans. Kari is distracted by family problems, and unexpected news from Chloe’s boyfriend jeopardizes her own future. As the sisters travel deeper into Wilder territory, Chloe races to discover the truth about a precious artifact—and her own heart—before a killer can strike again.
"The trouble was, Chloe really wanted her site to acquire the quilt. She wanted to be able to look at it whenever she wished. Maybe even touch it with a non-gloved finger from time to time. If she was having a bad day" - (page 5)
Who quotes from the first few pages of a book? I do, dang it! Because I can totally understand the feelings engendered in someone (Chloe) who works for a historical society in Wisconsin, even the hint of a possibility of someday touching something belonging to Laura Ingalls Wilder!
What's kind of sad is that until well after the television show, I had no idea that Laura was a real person! I might have heard of the books, but probably thought it was coincidence or conspiracy that the tv show featured a girl of the same name.
That's why I love, love, LOVE it when historical fiction like Death on the Prairie comes along. And Ms. Ernst gives us a double historical whammy. The book is set in 1983 (good gravy, I was already in my 20s by then), and reflects back 100 years further to what I will dub the "Laura Years". You know writers are going to conduct thorough research to get the facts straight, and the ethical ones will let you know when they have taken liberties with the facts in order to flesh out the story. It is obvious that the author is both careful and ethical in her historical facts.
Aside from the historical significance and enjoyment, there is a 'dark side' to the world of artefacts. Greed is at the root of it - whether we're talking money or bragging rights or obsession. The buying and selling of artefacts can be a cut-throat business, ditto for the collection or over-the-top fans, so that the course of the tour does not go smooth is not a surprise.
So, I am a huge fan of historical fiction, thanks in part to reading challenges and my 'discovery' of virtual book tours. I love visiting places and ages which due to distance, physics or the space-time continuum (oh, dear, time for more coffee) would otherwise be out of bounds to me.
This is the first book of Ernst's that I have read, and the first historical fiction series that I have encountered that features a different time, place or focus person in each instalment. And I give her props for featuring the history of her home state. This is what historical fiction should be like.
Luckily, Ms. Ernst has 5 other Chloe books I can read before I have to start asking those annoying questions like, "So, where do we go next?"
MEET THE AUTHOR
Kathleen Ernst is a former museum curator who remains passionate about history! 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 33 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.
To get an entry in the giveaway for a print copy of this book, comment with when in the world you would most like to visit and why! Winner to be chosen one week from today (Oct. 26)
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)