That’s sort of the catch phrase for Kathleen Ernst’s DEATH ON THE PRAIRIE, you see. Chloe Ellefson – the main character – never says it but goodness does her boyfriend Roelke McKenna seem to think toboggans are right up there with the Holy Grail.
It’s not a bad summary of the story either.
Chloe is a recently returned expat historian/curator, and that occupation combined with the Laura Ingalls Wilder hook, well, hooked me, who considers herself a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She wants nothing more than to… commune with Laura? So she packs up a quilt (because that’s the theme of the story… quilting) and her never-left-Wisconsin dairy farmer sister and sets off to tour the Laura Ingalls Wilder museums and sites, partly on the off chance said quilt might have been made by or belonged to Laura herself. And, holy toboggans, do things fall apart fast!
For one thing, somebody dies, or almost dies, at every site. Pepin, Burr Oak, DeSmet, Kansas, Mansfield… Chloe seems like a sort of Typhoid Mary, only deadlier. She doesn’t kill anyone (not a spoiler) but, holy toboggans, does she take every death personally. So painfully personally. Because of the quilt. I suppose.
For another thing, Chloe is perhaps the worst “superfan” known to fans. The poor girl gets hit with one revelation after another, about Laura! Chloe, who thought she’d “feel” Laura on the Kansas prairie because she knew her so well, did not know that the Ingalls’ lived in Iowa. She did not know that Laura was actually only two when the family lived in Kansas. She did not even know that Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder eventually settled in Missouri. And these bits of information Chloe collects on her trip shake her more than the deaths.
On a brief tangent, I have trouble understanding why Ernst felt the need to make Chloe so very uninformed about her passion. It was rage-inducing. They could have still tracked the history of the quilt to all the sites, though I suppose that would have made for a drier narrative if Chloe was constantly telling the reader things rather than Chloe and the reader being told together.
Maybe this wasn’t the book for me since I knew those things…
I digress. Holy toboggans, could I digress on this but I won’t.
Perhaps I would understand Chloe and her naivete better if I had read the first five books in this mystery series. I admit that. And it is why I stamped down my rage and finished the book. It worked out too, because the ending makes sense. It’s not the happiest, though I suspect because there are more Chloe Ellefson Mysteries to come, but it is right for what happens in the story.
And, I didn’t think I’d say this when I almost threw my Kindle across the room, there is a better than 50-50 chance that I will check out more of Chloe Ellefson.
(I received a copy of DEATH ON THE PRAIRIE through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and original review.)