Working for Old World Wisconsin, Chloe Ellefson delights in losing herself in antiques and folk traditions--and forgetting her messy love life. Then the outdoor ethnic museum becomes a murder scene. Does the missing Eagle diamond, a legendary gemstone unearthed in 1876, have anything to do with it? Could Simon Sabatola, a rich AgriFutures executive who possibly drove his wife to suicide, be responsible? Chloe learns that some things never change in this compelling mystery of old-fashioned greed, Swiss green cheese, and a nearly-extinct heirloom flower.
What an interesting mix of ingredients for a mystery! Below is Kathleen's guest article. She's giving a book away to one lucky commenter, so please leave a comment with your opinion to enter the drawing.
by Kathleen Ernst
At a mystery convention I attended last winter, one of the honored guests—a bestselling thriller author—said that characters in series should never change. Once a complex character has been created, he said, leave him or her alone. This allows readers to enjoy a series without worrying about the sequence, picking up individual titles in any order without any surprises or confusion.
Well, I was a bit surprised and confused by his advice. I wrote stand-alones for years before creating my Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites series, and I always thought about how the character would grow and change within the book. It never occurred to me to approach my Chloe mysteries any differently.
After the guest spoke, the panel moderator agreed that he “hated it” when a character changed. In his opinion, readers want to escape with a reliable hero and want to be able to anticipate what a character will do in each book.
OK, I thought, perhaps this advice applies primarily to action-driven thrillers. Then a well-known mystery author chimed in by saying it was “ridiculous” to expect characters to grow and change in each book.
I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I respectfully disagree.
When I read mysteries I admire great plots, but if I don’t care about the characters I won’t want to go on long multi-book rides with them. I’m not saying that a protagonist needs to face an enormous personal crisis in each volume, but I do expect them to be in at least a slightly different emotional place by the last page.
As my series progresses, Chloe--curator at a living history museum--will in each book have a murder to help solve. She will also confront a personal issue. In Old World Murder, Chloe has to decide if she cares enough about her new job to stick around. In The Heirloom Murders, an old flame arrives unexpectedly, complicating her new relationship with local cop Roelke McKenna. In the course of solving the puzzle, she’ll figure out something important that affects her personal problem as well.
I’m having a lot of fun thinking and planning ahead, visualizing a series arc created by the individual arc of each book. But…how about you? I’m fascinated by the question of growth and change in a series protagonist, and I’d love to get your opinion!
I’m grateful to Beth for allowing me to celebrate publication of The Heirloom Murders: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery by guest-posting here. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you. Leave a comment, and your name will go into a drawing for a free book. The winner can choose any of my seventeen titles. The Heirloom Murders, one of my American Girl mysteries, a Civil War novel—the choice will be yours! To learn more, please visit my website.