Featured: The Ginseng Conspiracy by Susan Bernhardt
Review: “Bernhardt has mastered the art of the cozy, providing plenty of red herrings and plot twists to keep our interest throughout.”
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 judgment, 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.
Meet Susan Bernhardt:
Susan’s town in northern Wisconsin was an inspiration for the quaint setting of her Kay Driscoll novels. Like Kay Driscoll in her cozy mysteries, Susan is a retired nurse who volunteers at her local free clinic. She also writes the Irina Curtius mysteries. 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: A Manhattan Murder Mystery (An Irina Curtius Mystery), Dress to Kill (An Irina Curtius Mystery), The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1), Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2), Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 3), Paradise Can Be Murder (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 4), Murder Misunderstood (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 5). “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.
Review by Impartin:
As a rule, Cozies revolve around multiple murders in a small community, a likable amateur sleuth, and often food. In the Kay Driscoll series, 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.
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.
Bernhardt 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!”
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