When I visited Wisconsin with Amy for her college orientation in July, I picked up a mystery novel in the Villa Louis gift shop in Prairie du Chien - “Death on the Prairie”, by Kathleen Ernst. It is a murder mystery in which the plucky female detective visits six Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites and museums in order to solve crime.
Did you know that there were six Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites and museums? Neither did I. I thought I was more up on Laura Ingalls Wilder than most, because thanks to Ellen’s fifth grade state report, I have actually been to the Little Town on the Prairie (that would be De Smet, South Dakota).
The six sites were described in depth and there were photographs in the back of the book. The fictional story took place in six very real places that you can go and visit. I was hooked.
Kathleen Ernst has now written ten historical mystery novels for adults (she also writes American Girl mystery novels for children). The first two mysteries are set at Old World Wisconsin (an amazing place described in my previous blog post).
Her other mysteries are set at various historical sites in Wisconsin and Minnesota. For weeks before this trip, I was feverishly reading all the books so I could travel to the sites described.
I also checked out Kathleen’s website, which is how I know that she lives in Middleton, Wisconsin, where I am currently staying as I help Amy get settled into her dorm at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
There is a “Contact” button on Kathleen’s website, so a few days ago I sent her a brief note about how much I liked her work and how I would be staying in Middleton – AND SHE REPLIED.
It was so exciting!! I read her reply as I was touring the Milwaukee Public Museum and I gave a little shriek of joy, much to the bemusement of the other museum-goers in the Wisconsin Ice Age exhibit.
Kathleen and I met for coffee in Middleton, we chatted, and she signed a book for me. It was awesome. I wish I'd asked for a photograph but I was trying so hard to be cool about it. (!!!)