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The Ginseng Conspiracy

(A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1)

Written by Susan Bernhardt


On the surface, Sudbury Falls is a town like any other. But a string of murders uncovers a devious conspiracy involving some of the most prominent members of the community. The Ginseng Conspiracy is a mystery, starring fifty-something heroine Kay Driscoll, a retired nurse and newcomer to the insular town of Sudbury Falls in northern Wisconsin. On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay 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.


Other Published Works:

Murder Under the Tree - October 31st - Midsummer - John and Madeleine


Reviews of The Ginseng Conspiracy

~ By Yangsze Choo, author of "The Ghost Bride" an Oprah Book of the Week. ~

"When retired nurse Kay Driscoll stumbles upon a murder in her small town of Sudbury Falls, the bodies - and the pastries - start piling up. Cozy mystery fans will love this delectable tale with a spunky heroine and a coterie of friends, liberally laced with mouth-watering descriptions of pastries from the cafe that connects all the players. I'm rooting for a companion cookbook!" - Yangsze Choo, author of "The Ghost Bride" an Oprah Book of the Week.

* * * *

Perfect Formula - Murder + Humor - The Ginseng Conspiracy kept my interest from start to finish. Take a suspenseful mystery, add plenty of red herrings, season with plot twists and you get Susan Bernhardt's debut novel. I couldn't put this book down. And you won't be able to either, if you like murder mysteries laced with quirky characters and witty humor.

* * * *

Warm, and dangerously friendly - The writing was warm, engaging, and maybe a little fattening too. What a page turner! I was drawn in by the descriptions of the small town and the quirky characters. At the end of each chapter, I was left wanting more. Can't wait to read the next one!

* * * *

A story of murder, risk, and pastry!!! An enjoyable escape from this winter's cold. The action was fast paced. Kay Driscoll is certainly a woman willing to take risks to solve a case along with her side kicks who are caricatures of women out of the norm in their interests. Add in her husband who epitomizes the preoccupied, detached and sometimes clueless spouse. Mix them together along with a murder and a corrupt set of prominent citizens in a small town and you have a thrilling book. Hats off to Ms. Bernhardt on a successful first novel.

* * * *

Excellent Mystery! Best I've read in a long time. It was hard to put down, and I didn't want it to end. So many twists and turns, left my hands sweating at times. Go Kay, Go!!

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Crisp, cozy, and pleasurable. I enjoyed the small town setting of the book and the intimacy of its characters. The story is crisp and a page-turner, and yet a lot of life experiences have been woven into the events and the character sketches. Last, but not the least, plenty of delectable pastries, tea, and food to make one want to cook and eat. An enjoyable read throughout.

* * * *

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!

* * * *

If you like cozy mysteries, you'll love The Ginseng Conspiracy by Susan Bernhardt.

Set in fictional Sudbury Falls, Wisconsin, the book starts off with the murder of a professor, and an increasingly large number of possible suspects. Kay Driscoll, the protagonist, along with her two best friends, Deirdre and Elizabeth, attempt to solve the murder without becoming the next victims.

As Kay Driscoll observes, at an exhibit of Impressionist art, "Like in a painting, the clues had come together in different shapes and hues to present a whole. A pointillistic answer to a murder!" Indeed, the plot is nothing less than a piece of art. Layers of complexity are slowly added to the upbeat tempo as clues mount, suspects increase, and bodies pile up.

In addition to well-drawn characters, immediately likable in their realness, the story captivates the reader in the manner in which it is told. Bernhardt's style is fresh and crystal clear in its conveyance of the people, events, and places that make up her story world. At times the strong writing achieves lyrical heights, and the reader is never wanting for description of the environs and the characters' thoughts and feelings.

An expertly told, well-crafted cozy, this debut by Susan Bernhardt leaves one begging for more murder and mayhem so Kay Driscoll can move on to the next case, of which I hope there are many more to come.

* * * *

My First Cozy Mystery - I found The Ginseng Conspiracy well written and the author carefully choose relatable characters, and added such an array of details that it felt more like I was watching a movie than reading a book. At the end of most chapters I could hear myself say “just one more”. This book was fascinating from the standpoint that you could not see what was coming next. The author was able to authenticate nearly everything with a wide range of information on all of her topics. After reading the book I felt the need to weigh myself, reading about those pastries stimulated my appetite, much like the classy ending which left me wanting more.

* * * *

A great Cozy Mystery - Kay Driscoll, the main character, is a smart, down-to-earth woman, the kind you would like to meet in person, the kind you would refer to as "what you see is what you get." I think I would like her in real life. She and her two cronies, beautiful, smart, and just a little whacky, are also...well, maybe not so "down to earth," but still the kind you'd want as friends.

The story is fast moving, the plot is intriguing, and the ending a surprise. Murders abound, conflict is both apparent and under the surface, and the intrigue involving all the different characters certainly holds your interest.

* * * *

An Interesting Tale - The Ginseng Conspiracy presents an interesting cast of characters involved in a fast moving, suspenseful drama. It provided comfort food for the soul as I read it on several frigid winter evenings. The small town setting lent itself to feeling more intimate with the characters. This was the first time I delved into a cozy mystery and I was not disappointed. Caution: Don't read the book on an empty stomach or the descriptions of the various delectable, calorie laden confections will distract you from focusing on the rapidly unfolding plot.

* * * *

The Ginseng Conspiracy - Pleasantly surprised! - I began to read this mystery and immediately was drawn to the main character, Kay Driscoll, her colorful side kicks, Elizabeth and Deirdre and the host of characters which comprised this exciting read. I consider myself an avid reader of books and The Ginseng Conspiracy kept my attention throughout, with just the right amount of intrigue, suspense and interest. Additionally, the many references to delectable desserts from Marissa's Patisserie left me wanting to join these three ladies at their many gatherings there. I HIGHLY recommend this cozy mystery to one and all!!!

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Suspense, suspense, suspense! - This is a must read for any cozy mystery lover. It has great characters, multiple murders, non-stop suspense and a very engaging story. I thoroughly enjoyed It!

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A real page turner! - It was hard to put this book down, and the fast pace did not diminish the rich descriptions of place or characters. The town and its characters really came to life and their development did not seem rushed or forced, as in some mysteries I've read. Living in a small town myself, I almost felt like the story could have happened here. Except we don't have villains around here -- or do we?

* * * *

Loved Loved Loved this book! - Kay Driscoll is an everyday woman with real friends living in a small town. I loved the interaction between Kay's friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre. The book was hard to put down because it was suspenseful and kept my interest all the way through. I also liked how we got to know most of the people who lived in the small town of Sudbury Falls. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading. I am looking forward to the next Kay Driscoll Mystery. Thank you to author, Susan Bernhardt for such a cozy read. :)

* * * *

A small town with secrets - The peaceful town of Sudbury Falls seems idyllic to retired nurse Kay Driscoll. At least, until she witnesses something sinister on her way to the annual Halloween Ball. Kay would normally report what she saw to the authorities, but (for spoiler-related reasons I won’t go into) knows that this would be a very bad idea. She can’t just let it go; that could lead to even worse things happening. So, with the help of her close friends, she starts her own investigation.

Kay is a great character, brave and empathetic. Sometimes her courage borders a bit on recklessness, but this made her even more real to me. We all have our flaws, after all. I like that the author gave us glimpses into Kay’s personal life, rather than focusing solely on the investigation. The supporting characters were entertaining and well rounded, too. I particularly liked Deirdre and Elizabeth, Kay’s friends.

I come from a small town, where people help each other out and small businesses still thrive. The town of Sudbury Falls felt very authentic to me. However, if our local farmers ever start growing ginseng, I might get a little concerned. ?

* * * *

Six little robes slinking through the streets...what's an inquisitive mind supposed to do? FOLLOW of course! - Multiple murder is afoot in the seemingly genteel world of the upper middle class community of Sudbury Falls. Kay Driscoll and her somewhat unusual friends and inattentive hubby, paint the quest for truth with lots of interesting moments.(How DOES poor Kay manage to not have her eyes go blank, when he begins regaling her with the wonders of...making guitars after they retire to this idyllic town?) Okay...idyllic may be a bit of a stretch, especially when murder becomes the topic and deed of the day and night.

Ms. Bernhardt has fashioned a well crafted, fast paced journey into murder at it most wicked. Murder...you do figure out who some of the players in this game of "Murder-Most-Rampant", but not all. Some will surprise you to your very roots.

A delightful romp...that happily is the beginning of the KAY DRISCOLL MYSTERY SERIES. FIVE STARS for Ms. Bernhardt... and her tenacious sleuth Kay Driscoll.

* * * *

Great mystery! - The fun characters, Wisconsin settings and interesting storyline all combine to make a fantastic read. I highly recommend it.

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A good mystery - I thought the mystery aspect was intriguing and successful.I would recommend this to mystery fans.

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Waiting for more! ­ What a page turner! I was drawn in by the descriptions of the small town and the quirky characters. At the end of each chapter, I was left wanting more. This book had me up way past my bedtime for several days straight. Can't wait to read the next one!

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A great read. The characters are fresh and come off the page. What I like best is how the author layers the tension... building it and building it, until you're flipping the pages as fast as you can.

* * * *

This is a delightful cozy mystery, with the requisite quirky characters. The way Ms. Bernhardt describes of the town of Sudbury Falls, Wisconsin, makes me want to visit. The relationships of the various characters draw the reader into the story. One of the parts I loved best was the mystery surrounding her husband. I won¿t say anything else about that. You¿ll have to read for yourself to find what the mystery is and how it¿s resolved. I look forward to Ms. Bernhardt¿s next foray into mystery at Sudbury, Falls, Wisconsin.

* * * *

This story has everything a cozy mystery fan desires without going overboard. The witty writing keeps the reader interest as the mystery unfolds. A real page-turner! I wish I lived in a town like Sudbury Falls. I can't wait to see what adventures Kay will encounter next. I wish Phil would be a little less clueless and self absorbed. Otherwise he will lose Kay to the charming Thom.

* * * *

The characters in The Ginseng Conspiracy are realistic and found myself not wanting to put it down until the end. Just when you thought you knew what was coming next there was another twist and of course an exciting end. When it only takes a few days of my very busy life to finish a book it's a good sign. I will look forward to reading other titles by Kay Driscoll.

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A perfect read for my vacation! - Thank you, Susan, for the wonderful mystery cosy you have written about a small town in Wisconsin. I only wish that the patisserie was real and located near my home, because the baked goods sounded so delicious. I can tell that Kay Driscoll has a new adventure in her future and am looking forward to your next book. Kay's friends are delightful and individual, which makes for a superb read. I read the book while in a third world country and each chapter made 'home' seem very close at hand.

©2012 by Susan Bernhardt. All rights reserved.