Lace is the fabric that holds together past and present.
Both police officer Roelke McKenna and his girlfriend, Chloe Ellefson, curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin, have something on their minds. Roelke can’t get over the guilt he feels for planting evidence on his cousin’s dangerous ex-husband; Chloe has just heard that her mother, who’s fiercely proud of her Norwegian heritage, may have been adopted and is perhaps not Norwegian at all. So it’s a welcome distraction when Chloe is booked to work on a project in Door County, Wisconsin, where her old friend Elise O’Rourke, an expert on Belgian lace, has arranged for their visits to coincide. Just before she arrives at the Belgian Acres B&B, Chloe spots a bake oven at a derelict farm. When she takes a closer look, she finds a body stuffed in the oven. Her hostess, Sharon Bertrand—a descendant of the Lejeunes, one of the first Belgian families to settle the area—is a relative of the dead man, who owned the farm. Alternating chapters unfold the fascinating history of the family of talented lacemaker Seraphine Moreau Lejeune, from her decision to marry her sweetheart and set off to wilderness Wisconsin, where the family’s struggles to survive force her to give up her dream of lacemaking, to the end of World War I, when another dream comes true. Chloe quickly becomes immersed in her work at the Heritage Hill living history site, which is adding a Belgian farm. But she’s surprised and dismayed by Elise’s lack of interest in spending time with her. Elise, who’s determined to find samples of old lace, has learned that a particular rare and valuable piece may still be in the area. Elise goes missing, Chloe is kidnapped, and another man is murdered before Chloe can figure out the motive for the unknown killer.
In this heartfelt tale of labor and love, Ernst (Mining for Justice, 2017, etc.) produces one of her most winning combinations of historical evocation and clever mystery.