Friday, January 23, 2015

Today's spotlight is on author

Susan's town in northern Wisconsin was an inspiration for the quaint setting of her novels. Like Kay Driscoll in her cozy mysteries, The Ginseng Conspiracy and Murder Under the Tree, Susan is a retired nurse who volunteers at her local free clinic. She lives with her husband, William, and has two sons, Peter and David.

An avid reader of mysteries, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc. and the Wisconsin Writers Association. Her published works include: The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1), Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2), "October 31st", "Midsummer", and "John and Madeline."

When not writing, Susan loves to travel, bicycle, kayak, and create culinary magic in her kitchen. She works in stained-glass, daydreams in her organic garden, stays up late reading mysteries, and eats lots of chocolate.

Book 1 in the Kay Driscoll Mystery series

Book Description

 January 1, 2014
On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, a newcomer to town, witnesses the murder of a local professor. When the official coroner's report rules the cause of death to be accidental and the community accepts the judgement, Kay decides to uncover the truth for herself. Through her personal investigations, Kay exposes a complex conspiracy, woven deep within the thriving local ginseng industry, that involves some of the more prominent figures and families of Sudbury Falls. 

With her new friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth, Kay discusses new clues over tea and pastries at Sweet Marissa's Patisserie, their crime-fighting headquarters. As Kay gets closer to the heart of the conspiracy, additional murders happen in quick succession. Before long, Kay learns that the villains are gunning for her, too. Phil, her musically talented but preoccupied husband, determined to keep her safe, withholds from her the one thing she needs most: the truth.

My Review

THE GINSENG CONSPIRACY is my first book by author Susan Bernhardt, but won't be my last. 

I instantly liked lead character, Kay Driscoll. I found her very likable. Her friends Elizabeth and Deidre are great opposites that were perfect companions for Kay. As was Marissa who is owner of Sweet Marissa's Patisserie, where the women can often be found.

The mystery starts soon into the story and just continued to grow and build until at last all was made known.

Ms. Bernhardt has a fluid way with descriptions. I felt very much a part of the story as I read. I found myself wanting to spend a lot of time in Sweet Marrisa's Patisserie. I totally need a place like that where I live!

This story is set is fall around the Halloween season, However, be assured, you can read and enjoy this book anytime of the year. 

If you want a good, fast, entertaining read, pick up a copy of THE GINSENG CONSPIRACY.

A review from Amazon by Loren

5 stars - A Cozy for All Seasons 
As a rule, cozies revolve around multiple murders in a small community, a likable amateur sleuth, and often food. In The Ginseng Conspiracy, Bernhardt fulfills our cozy expectations and adds a few refreshing touches. The murders in the fictionalized community of Sudbury Falls multiply at an alarming rate. Kay Driscoll as the sleuth is immensely appealing because, like every character in Bernhardt's book, she's multi-dimensional. She's sweet, tough, vulnerable and reckless in her sense of justice. When Kay's husband begs her to walk away from the investigation because her life is in danger, indomitable Kay refuses to stop. She continues her pursuit of the truth and we root for her every inch of the way, holding our breath whenever she puts herself in harm's way.

The plot, without any spoilers-alert, is as follows. While on her way to a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, former nurse and newcomer to Sudbury Falls, witnesses a murder. When the official report claims the death to be accidental, Kay suspects something is amiss and decides to investigate.

With support from two of her friends (Elizabeth, a liberated woman who's never met a man she didn't like, and Deirdre, the quintessential spiritualist concerned with good karma and a balanced environment with the help of feng shui), Kay throws herself wholeheartedly into uncovering the truth, using Sweet Marissa's Patisserie as headquarters for their crime-solving efforts. As the investigation gets under way, Kay and friends encounter a city-wide corruption involving some of the best families in town as well as government officials.

By featuring Sweet Marissa's Patisserie as Kay's crime-solving headquarters, Bernhardt does more than continue a tradition of presenting some of the action in a cozy around the consumption of food. She turns the locale in its mouth-watering splendor into another character in the story. Bernhardt shows great expertise not only in her characterizations and descriptions but also in maintaining tension in dialogues and keeping the tension strong from one scene to the next.

In The Ginseng Conspiracy, Bernhardt shows she has mastered the art of the cozy, providing plenty of red herrings and plot twists to keep our interest throughout. For this reader, a refreshing and most welcome touch was Bernhardt's use of art and music in the narrative. During a visit Kay pays to a local museum, the author's adroit pen turns us into museum goers looking over Kay's shoulders as she views the works of the masters. With equal expertise, Bernhardt drops us into the audience when Kay attends a music gig by her husband's band; the music resonates through and off the pages.

With such a successful foray into the genre, one can only expect many more Kay Driscoll adventures by Susan Bernhardt in the future. Bravo, Bernhardt. Long live cozies! 

Book 2 in the Kay Driscoll Mystery series

Book Description

 November 14, 2014
While Kay attends a Christmas tea at Hawthorne Hills Retirement Home, a beloved caretaker dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts. When the official coroner's report rules the cause of death to be accidental, a small group of residents suspect foul play and call upon Kay to investigate. 

Kay uncovers sinister plots of fraud, revenge, and corruption at the Home. During this season of peace on earth, good will to men, additional murders occur. Despite multiple attempts on her life, and with the support once again of her best friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, Kay continues her quest for bringing justice for the victims. Kay's first Christmas in Sudbury Falls is an unforgettable one, with equal amounts of celebration and danger. Tis the season to be sleuthing!

A review from Amazon by David

5 stars - A fun cozy for any time of year, not just December 
As far as mystery books go, I'm way more into cozies than something darker and grittier. I enjoyed reading the first book in this series, The Ginseng Conspiracy. It introduced us to a group of friends that, true to cozy format, get reluctantly dragged into a murder investigation. In this sequel, after an "accidental" death at a local retirement home at a Christmas party, amateur sleuth Kay Driscoll is brought in by suspicious residents of the home due to her exploits in the first book.

For me, the book is about the characters. Kay and her friends are starting to feel like my own friends. I felt rather nervous toward the end, when all heck was breaking loose and I wasn't sure if anything bad was going to happen to any of them. As it is...well, you'll just have to read to find out. I started out reading just one chapter at a time, but by the end, I couldn't put it down. I think I read the last third of the book in one long reading session.

It's also about food. Between all the holiday parties and family get-togethers, I spent nearly the whole time wanting to crawl into the book and eat with them. If nothing else, it's raised my interest in exploring my local coffee shops and bakeries.

There is, however, one character that aggravates me a little. That would be Phil, Kay's husband. In both books, his reaction to certain events seems to be, "Someone just tried to kill you, Kay? Well, I'm glad they failed. See you later, I have to go make a guitar." If I were Kay, I'd be getting a little ticked off at Phil's seemingly all-consuming obsession with jazz and guitars. But then again, it adds a little more realism. I mean, people are weird like that. In the past, I've probably said something to my wife along the lines of, "You had a bad day at work? Sorry to hear that. See you later, I have to go compare the career on-base percentages of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio."

As a benefit, I read it right around Christmas. While it certainly helped get into the spirit of the book, I don't think it'll negatively impact your experience at any other time of year.

Learn more about author
Susan Bernhardt


My Book Beginnings and Friday 56 
are both from 

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted by Rose City Reader
Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading

My Book Beginnings for this week..

The days that led up to the murder were like any other. Most weekday mornings, I started my day speed walking with my friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, for an hour. Since my favorite establishment in town, Sweet Marissa's Patisserie, was my "home away from home," regular exercise was definitely in order. 

The Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda's Voice
Rules: *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader (If you have to improvise, that's okay.) *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grab you. *Post it.

My Friday 56...

The hospital was eerily quiet at night. The halls darker, the air cooler, the clock on the wall by the nurses' station moved slower and ticked louder. 

As always, please leave a comment and 
let me know what you think!

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  1. This sounds good
    Will add it to my list

    1. Thank you, Dawn. I hope you enjoy the Kay Driscoll mysteries. :)

    2. Dawn, how long is that list getting to be? ;-)

  2. Thank you, Lisa for this wonderful post regarding my Kay Driscoll mystery series. I couldn't be happier. :) Thank you also for your lovely review. I appreciate it.

    Susan Bernhardt

  3. Thanks, have a good weekend, too, ya' hear? :)

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, have a great weekend!

  5. I like the main character from the first paragraph! She sounds like a woman who has balance in her life--a love of pastries but with exercise to counteract their effects. I also like the way the author captures the atmosphere in a hospital at night. Definitely different from the hustle and bustle during daytime. Good writing.
    My Friday post features FINDING SOUTHERN COMFORT.

    1. Hello Sandra and thank you. I'm happy that you like what you see about the protagonist from Lisa's post. This was a fun mystery series to write.

      While I'm watching the comments on this blog, I'm writing the third Kay Driscoll mystery. I plan to submit it to my publisher next week. I hope you'll give the series a try.


  6. Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for stopping by Fiction Books today. I love meeting new people, so your vists will always be welcome and your comments always appreciated.

    I must admit that I do favour mysteries / thrillers. with a much darker and grittier storyline, however there is a time and place for everything and I enjoy a good 'cozy' along with the best of you!

    I am always amazed at the rate that murders multiply in these small rural communities - is there something in the water I ask myself!

    I can especially relate to your Friday 56 lines. I am not a huge fan of hospitals at the best of times, but at night they are simply eerie and creepy if you ask me. Lights in corridors are turned down to the point where they would make a good setting for a Hitchcock film and when my father spent a lengthy spell in hospital recently, he was in a side room on his own, with his bed positioned to face a blank wall, with a clock at its centre. Unfortunately the battery in the clock was running low, so every hour which passed real time, was the equivalent to ten clock minutes. No wonder he began hallucinating and was convinced that everyone in the place was out to get him!

    Nice review. Have a great weekend and I love the cute little pooch :)


    1. Yvonne, thank you for your kind words! Just over two years ago I was reading nothing but suspense/thrillers. Then I went into a major reading slump. I went months and never picked up a book. My sister has been reading cozies for more years than I can count. But from back when there weren't half as many available. Anyway, I love baking cupcakes. I'm a cupcake nut. I even collect cupcake items. She had a cozy about a Cupcake Bakey and asked me to give it a try. The author was Jenn McKinlay.I ended up reading everything Jenn wrote under her name and all her pen names. And then I spread out to other cozy authors. I haven't stopped reading since and name have my blog, a Twitter page and a Facebook page. Seems like my mind knew that the darker mysteries were starting to get to me.

      I look forward to visiting your blog more often, and would love to have you stop back by.

  7. I am sorry to say that I had never read Sarah's first book nor her second, but now that I have read your review Lisa, I will be very much wanting to get these two on my order list so that I will be ready to read book 3 that Sarah said was ready to be submitted for publication. The premise sounds great and like you, Lisa, I love my cozies.

    I would love to list my words from my book today but it was a CD and it is in our car and I am not up to going out to the car and trying to write them down, but it is a Janet Evanovich book, her 21st one called Top Secret Twenty One. Just finished it tonight and our way home from having dinner at Longhorn Steak House. Now onto a real thriller by James Patterson that is my husband's choice this time.
    Thank you for letting us know about this great new series and author (to me) too.

    Have a great weekend everyone.


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Cynthia. I always love you comments. :-) I haven't read Evanovich yet, though I've only heard good things about her.

    2. Thanks, Ceblain. Please be sure you look under Susan Bernhardt when you check out The Ginseng Conspiracy and Murder Under the Tree. :)


  8. Bone-chilling 56, I like that a lot!
    Miss the recipe this week. :-)
    Happy weekend!

    1. Oh no Freda! I'll get a recipe up next week!

    2. Thanks, fredamans. It's a rather bone-chilling scene.

      Susan Bernhardt

  9. Aloha Susan,

    Great post. I enjoyed as always reading about your work. :-) I have retweeted and fb'd, googled this etc. Always fun to read. :-)

    Aloha Meg :-)

    1. Aloha, Meg. Thanks for visiting here and for your great comment. And for the tweets, etc. Always glad to hear from you.

      Aloha, Susan :)

  10. This sounds really cute! I haven't come across this series before but I love the cover and the excerpt! I'll have to add this to my TBR.

    1. Thanks, Katherine for your visit and comment. I hope you will give the series a try. It has received great reviews.

  11. I love a good cozy series, so I must check this one out. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  12. I love the tone of this story and the opening caught my attention. The page 56 is so true to life.

    Love the sound of this book and intend to hop over to Amazon to get it.

    If I Loved You. is my offering for this week

  13. Thank you, Sherry. I hope you enjoy The Ginseng Conspiracy.

    Susan Bernhardt

  14. I like the cover and the beginning draws me in! Can't go wrong with home away from home, but I agree that exercise is definitely a must! Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

  15. Thanks, Laura for your great comments. Like Kay in The Ginseng Conspiracy, I eat way too many pastries but I do try and exercise as well. :)