Ernst, a veteran of YA fiction, introduces her first adult heroine in this cozy, small-town mystery.
Chloe Ellefson is used to unraveling the secrets of the past. As a curator of living history, Chloe interprets antiques and puts them in context. After a bad breakup, Chloe’s left Switzerland to come home, where she begins a new job at Old World Wisconsin, depicting the history of immigrant communities. On her very first day, she’s greeted by an impossible demand. Elderly widow Berget Lundquist, who donated a prized family heirloom, a Norwegian ale bowl, decades ago, is desperate to get it back. Chloe can’t even begin to find it in the chaos she’s inherited, but promises to look into it. Distraught, Mrs. Lundquist drives off, has instant heart failure and wraps her Buick around a tree. Chloe, between trying to get the archival supplies she needs and managing her intimidatingly competent intern, does her best to locate the ale bowl, but it’s apparently disappeared. Handsome local cop Roelke McKenna is maybe a bit too interested in the ale bowl—or maybe he’s just interested in Chloe. What seems like a niggling loose end becomes deadly serious when Mrs. Lundquist’s only friend is found dead in his home. Can Chloe and Roelke stop bickering long enough to solve the crime? And what’s so special about this ale bowl?
A gentle puzzler best appreciated by amateur genealogists and folk artists. The slow pace will bore most others.