Saturday, May 13, 2017

Today I'm doing a return spotlight on author

Susan Bernhardt is an author living in Wisconsin. Like Kay Driscoll in her cozy mysteries, The Ginseng Conspiracy and Murder Under the Tree, Susan is a retired public health nurse who volunteers at her local free clinic. An avid reader of mysteries, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Writers Association. Her other published works include "October 31st", "Midsummer", and "John and Madeline".

Susan Bernhardt is a "Featured Wisconsin Author" in the Wisconsin Author Review Magazine and The Ginseng Conspiracy is a "Featured Wisconsin Book."

Susan's town in northern Wisconsin was an inspiration for the quaint setting of her novel. She lives with her husband, William, and has two sons, Peter and David, and lovely daughters-in-law, Ashley and Nicole.

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 Irina Curtius Mystery

Irina Curtius, a retired ballet dancer living on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, runs a ballet studio for young children. Recently, she has been watching her younger and otherwise healthy neighbor, Stephen Kramer, become ill over time. When Stephen travels for business, his health always seems to improve dramatically after he has been away, but only temporarily. Within days of returning home, his health begins to deteriorate again. On top of that, Stephen has added stress due to problems he is having with his wife and his irate live-in sister-in-law. Sadly, Stephen's last bout with his mysterious illness has proven to be fatal. Unsatisfied with the official explanation and in order to deliver justice for her friend and neighbor, Irina sets out to uncover the truth and prove that Stephen was indeed murdered.

It won't be easy, though. A former lover from Irina's college days at NYU has suddenly reinserted himself into her life, wanting to pick up where they left off. Additionally, a mysterious newcomer arrives in Irina's neighborhood and he now seems to be shadowing Irina, appearing everywhere she goes. The story that unfolds, interwoven in the everyday lives of Irina and her social circle, highlights the unpredictability of life, the best and worst of humanity, and the powerful bonds that drive people together (and apart).


A big city cozy, with a small town feel.

I’ll admit it, I never thought cozies should be set in big cities. Most of my favorites are set in small towns, many of which are fictional. And while I still prefer those small towns, A MANATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, (like a few other titles) has changed my mind. Author Susan Bernhardt has given the Upper West Side of Manhattan the little village feel that I so love about cozies.

A MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY was really two mysteries in one. While protagonist Irina Curtius searches to discover the real reason behind the death of her young neighbor, she also deals with an ex coming back into her life, and someone is keeping a close watch on her as well.

I loved every page of this book. Author Bernhardt penned a mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat, and an engrossing tale that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stay away from for long. She also brought to life characters that I liked and enjoyed, and I look forward to reading more about them in the next book in the series.

Cozy fans, don’t let the big city title keep you from reading A MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY. You’ll find cozy can be found everywhere.


Book 1 in the Kay Driscoll Mystery series

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 enjoyable. 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 started soon into the story and just continued to grow and build until the amazing reveal. Author Susan Bernhardt delivered an ending that completely surprised me! 

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

If you enjoy fast paced mysteries with plenty of twists and turns, relatable characters that you want to visit with again, and witty writing that will win you over, pick up a copy of THE GINSENG CONSPIRACY


Book 2 in the Kay Driscoll Mystery series

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!


MURDER UNDER THE TREE is a great second story in the Kay Driscoll Mystery series.

I saw much growth in the writing from the first book (which I loved). Author Susan Bernhardt has really developed the characters and has a great way with descriptions. My favorite parts were in Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie. Oh my goodness, I could smell all the goodies as I was reading.

As with THE GINSENG CONSPIRACY, Book 1 in the series, the mystery starts just a few pages into the book. The story takes off quickly and keeps an invigorating pace right up to its dramatic conclusion. I was kept guessing through the whole book.   

I look forward to my next visit to Sudbury Falls, Wisconsin. I can’t wait to see what Kay Driscoll gets herself into next!

MURDER UNDER THE TREE does take place during the Christmas season and goes through into January. Please, don’t let that stop you from reading it right away! This is a wonderful mystery for ANY time of the year!


Book 3 in the Kay Dricoll Mysteries

Kay Driscoll's son's wedding reception for two hundred guests is in her backyard. As if that wasn't enough, a precocious and troubled twelve-year-old is foisted on her two days before the wedding. When the happy day arrives, one of the guests disrupts the event and is asked to leave: a womanizing member of Kay's book club.

A few days later, after a Fourth of July fireworks show, he is found dead on the beach. Kay and her ever-present friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, investigate the death, which at first is declared a suicide. They believe this is a cover-up and go about to prove their theory, an arduous task because the potential suspects are many, and few (if any) will regret the victim's death.


Book three in the Kay Driscoll Mysteries, MURDER BY FIREWORKS, is the best so far in this series by author Susan Berhardt!

A wonderful book, the plot of this story was flawlessly thought out by author Bernhardt. She has created a tale of mystery, intrigue, and humor, with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing til the end.

One of my favorite parts of cozy mysteries is of course the characters...and I do enjoy the characters is this series very much. But the other thing I really love about cozies are the many different careers the characters have. In the Kay Driscoll series, Sweet Marissa's Patisserie is THE place where the characters meet. I can't blame them. With all of the magnificent treats served, I'd be there all the time! Honestly, Sweet Marissa's Patisserie itself is like another character in the story.

All of the Kay Driscoll books can be read as standalone's, so don't let the seasonal covers fool you.

I'm very much looking forward to Susan Bernhardt's next installment to this five star series!

If you haven't Susan Berhardt,
it's about time that you do!

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

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  1. Thanks, Lisa. Hope you have a beautiful Saturday.

  2. Wow, Lisa! I loved your review!!! And what a surprise to wake up to this morning. Thank you so much!

    Readers who enjoyed the Kay Driscoll mysteries, have also enjoyed A Manhattan Murder Mystery. Thank you for all of your wonderful reviews for the Kay Driscoll mysteries listed here! :)

  3. Great post Lisa. Thanks for sharing all of your reviews on the great books.