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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Heritage of Darkness (Chloe Ellefson #4)

Heritage of Darkness - Kathleen Ernst

This is a 4 star read, but it's going to read more like a 3 star review.

 

This is one of those books.  It's one of those series, too.  I order the next book, receive it, and then it promptly sits in the rock-bed of Mt. TBR for an indeterminate period.  When I finally pick it up and start reading it, (and I often have to have a psych up session along the lines of "just read it!  Now!") I devour it.  I've enjoyed every one of the four books in this series so far.

 

BUT.

 

But there's obviously something about these books that inspires the inertia. I've thought and thought about it and I've got nothing.  It's this weird dichotomy between thoroughly enjoying the books, and the realisation that if they stopped publishing tomorrow, I'd feel not much more than ambivalence.

 

Right.  To the review of Heritage of Darkness.  This is a currently-written series but it takes place in 1984.  I don't know what the author's rationale is for this, if there even is one, but it makes the mystery feel a bit vintage; no mobile phones, no email, no internet.  Chloe has to do her detecting the old-fashioned way.  I giggled at one point when she was fishing around for change to use the pay-phone; at another when she actually made a collect call to her best friend.

 

She's a curator of collections at a museum in Wisconsin, but she's on a family bonding trip to Decorah, Iowa and the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum (a real place) for rosemaling classes.  Her newly minted boyfriend (but don't call him that), Roelke is along for the ride to take a carving class.  She and her mom have Issues, and this week is supposed to help them become closer.  You can imagine how well that works out when Chloe and Roelke find the dead body at the opening reception.

 

I like Chloe but I can't say whether or not she's someone I'd want to be friends with.  In spite of all the background we get about her throughout all the books, I don't feel like I have a real solid grasp on her character or her personality.  She does have a sense of humour - snappy comebacks and snark are sprinkled throughout the book - although not liberally.  I get the impression, mostly, that Chloe just goes through life and allows things to happen or not; she doesn't ever make anything happen.  She deals with whatever comes at her efficiently enough, she just doesn't brim with optimistic proactivity.  The author has given her the smallest touch of psychic ability, but she never depends upon it for, well, anything, really.  Although it does play a small part in her piecing the mystery together.

 

Roelke feels very, very real.  I imagine that more than a few men think like Roelke, while acting like him as well.  He's a very earnest cop, with a bit of a broken childhood background and he adores Chloe, but he keeps it very close to his chest.  The book is written in dual POV - quite well, actually - so we get to hear what goes on inside his head, but Chloe doesn't.  The author doesn't try to paint him a hero, or even really a protector, as Chloe stubbornly foils his every attempt at keeping her safe.

 

As to the mystery itself?  Oh, very well done.  Readers are going to get a lot of well-researched information about Norwegian customs and traditions, as they figure heavily into the mystery itself.  I really enjoyed the way the myths and traditions were woven throughout the plot.  I never even so much as speculated about who the killer was because I just didn't have any idea.  The ending was just a bit creepy; not too much so for a cozy, but a delightful change of pace from the vanilla.  

 

Will I buy the next one?  You bet! Absolutely!  Will it sit on the TBR pile until I prod myself to pick it up and read it?  Yep!  Probably!  Would I recommend it?  I think so - it's really a very nice read.  

 

Which sort of feels like the book equivalent of "She has a great personality!"