Cover Image: Under Lock & Skeleton Key

Under Lock & Skeleton Key

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Member Reviews

By looking at this book I would never have guessed it's a cozy mystery. I don't really care for this new style of cozy covers. I was also afraid it was going to be way to Millennial for me (the new modern cozy), but I am glad to say that it wasn't to bad. 

It's about Tempest who was a magician and something happened to bring her back home to work for her father who makes secret staircases and hidden rooms. While working at a house they find a body hidden and it looks a lot like Tempest. 

There is also a lot of talk about her family having a curse and Tempest is wanting to put the curse to rest and she thinks finding out who killed the victim will do so because her father and grandfather are worried someone was trying to kill her. 

 I kind of felt like this had a lot of different things going on, and somethings not really wrapped up. Also I didn't feel like it gave you a good cast of characters to try and figure out whodunit, leaving it to only be a certain person, though there was a few twist. Overall I think it was a decent start to a series and will try the next one though that cover looks worse than this one! 3 stars.
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From the publisher: 
An impossible crime. A family legacy. The intrigue of hidden rooms and secret staircases.

After a disastrous accident derails Tempest Raj’s career, and life, she heads back to her childhood home in California to comfort herself with her grandfather’s Indian home-cooked meals. Though she resists, every day brings her closer to the inevitable: working for her father’s company. Secret Staircase Construction specializes in bringing the magic of childhood to all by transforming clients’ homes with sliding bookcases, intricate locks, backyard treehouses, and hidden reading nooks.

When Tempest visits her dad’s latest renovation project, her former stage double is discovered dead inside a wall that’s supposedly been sealed for more than a century. Fearing she was the intended victim, it’s up to Tempest to solve this seemingly impossible crime. But as she delves further into the mystery, Tempest can’t help but wonder if the Raj family curse that’s plagued her family for generations—something she used to swear didn’t exist—has finally come for her.

My thoughts: 

I think it's worth a read. It's the first book in a new series and can be read as a standalone. It's a cozy locked room mystery. Gigi Pandian writes this sort of story well.

I had a little trouble getting into the story, but it was worth it. I didn't anticipate the who or why of the mystery. And I'm still a little foggy on the how. But, a magician never shares her secrets.

The concept of a contracting company that specializes in making secret rooms and staircases is interesting. The company is Tempest's Dad's bread and butter. Their home is full of these types of things. 

I liked the characters. Tempest grew up in a very nurturing multi generational home. If you've read her Jaya Jones series, you will recognize Sanjay the Hindi Houdini. And I liked that some of the characters actually showed growth before the end of the book.

All in all, it's an interesting mystery and a good start to a new series. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. If you've enjoyed other works by Gigi Pandian you will most likely enjoy this book. I would also recommend it to people who enjoy locked room mysteries. This book was published March 15th, 2022 by Minotaur Books.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. This did not affect my review.
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Fun, totally original and brilliantly constructed locked-room style mystery. Pandian is a master of character development and clue-planting; she makes it seem effortless, which is a testament to her talent. Her premise of a family business that outfits homes with wonderfully playful features like specialty locks, hidden rooms, sliding bookcases, and so forth. It add such a magical twist to the underlying puzzle-mystery. I really loved this book and hope we see even more from Pandian in this style, perhaps as a series! Highly recommended.
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Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian

An impossible crime.  The intrigue of hidden rooms & special staircases.

This novel is full of secrets, hidden rooms, staircases.  Is there a curse on one family?  Very creative novel.  Enjoyed reading it.  Lovely characters.  A way to escape through this book.

Thanks to Net Galley for sending me an advanced reader’s copy for my review.
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If you love to find puzzling gems that twist up your brain (in a fun way) and leave you thinking… I haven’t read anything quite like that… this is the book for you.
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Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian was a layered mystery. This one took me a while to get into, but I was pleasantly surprised by the resolution. I loved the large cast of characters in the book. I need a grandpa Ash in my life!
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As a fan of Gigi Pandian's other mystery series, I was eager to read this first book featuring Tempest Raj.  Tempest's career as an illusionist in Vegas show is derailed so she returns to her childhood home in Hidden Creek, California. There, Tempest enjoys her grandfather’s Indian home-cooked meals and visits her dad’s latest renovation project.  His company, Secret Staircase Construction, specializes in  transforming clients’ homes with sliding bookcases, intricate locks, backyard treehouses, and hidden reading nooks. 

But Tempest is shocked when her former stage double Cassidy is discovered dead inside a wall that has been sealed for more than 100 years. Knowing about the Raj family curse, Tempest wonders if she was the intended victim.  Tempest's unique charm bracelet and clues from her late mother make provide the keys to solving the locked room mystery and Cassidy's murder.

This was an enjoyable first book in this new series with puzzles that harkens back to the Golden Age of classic mysteries by authors such as John Dickson Carr.  

I received a digital ARC from Netgalley and St. Martin's Press.  All opinions are mine.
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This was not the book for me. It was a great premise but, in the end, I could not finish it. I apologize for the lateness of my review.
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This has got to be on my favorite books of 2022 list!  The characters are very interesting and I love that some of the main characters live in a tree house.  The characters are Indian and Scottish and make some delightful fusion foods for cozy foodie mystery fans.
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This was such a great mystery. Light, fun and characters that make you want to revisit them time and time again. I was fully invested in figuring out this mystery and yet, I failed. I love how Pandian brought everything together. I’m so excited that this is the start of a new series!
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Pandian describes her work as 'quirky don't quite fit mysteries' that defy categories. True this. They also are puzzle mysteries that delight the reader. In this new series, she already breaks some rules.
Sanjay, a character from her first popular Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt series, is back bowler hat and all.
Like the Jaya Jones series, Secret Staircase Mysteries will feature a dynamic woman, one who has chosen an unusual profession. Tempest Raj is a stage magician who has out Houdinied Houdini. A famous Las Vegas performer until a tragic accident has derailed her career. Sanjay is an old friend and supporter. Tempest is back in California, to her childhood home. What a home it is. Her parents founded a unique construction company. Renovating or building homes that contain secret rooms, sliding bookcases, and the like. Their home, sprawls across a hillside, complete with towers hidden entries and tree houses. It sounds ideal until the reader finds that Tempest's mother has disappeared, and Tempest might be the latest victim of the family curse. She comes from a line of stage magicians. all who have had the eldest child killed by magic. Will this be Tempest's fate.
Another strong character is Tempest's grandfather, now retired, and committed to feeding any person who comes within walking distance of his kitchen. The wonderful meals invites the reader to dive into vegetarian cuisine.
This a great first book for a series, that leaves this reader eagerly waiting for Book 2.

Thank you net galley and St. Martin's Press for making this digital ARC available in exchange for an
honest review.
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This was such a nice start to a new series! I enjoyed the premise for the mystery, particularly its homage to the locked room mystery. It was equal parts entertaining, nostalgic, and a joy to read. The level of detail included in the descriptions about the work done by the Secret Staircase Construction (the company owned and run by Tempest's father) was helpful in visualizing the various settings included in the story. The "mysteries within the mystery" were also enjoyable. They added an extra layer of suspense and intrigue to the mix without impacting the pacing too much. I'm always happy when I can get my hands on a mystery written by a woman of color. This is the first book I've ready by Pandian. and I plan on reading more after this one.
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Rating: 3/5 Stars

Tempest Raj is cursed. For generations, the first born daughter in Tempest’s family has mysteriously died, including Tempest’s own mother. After a near death experience in her latest magic performance, Tempest finds herself back home with her dad and grandparents, piecing back together her life.

When her stunt double look-a-like turns up dead in a local home her dad is working on, Tempest wonders whether or not she can outrun her family’s curse and save her own life just in the nick of time.

I had really high hopes for Under Lock and Skeleton key but had trouble with the pacing and building a likable connection to the plot and characters. The ending didn’t really work itself out with half of the books mysteries remaining unsolved. I was left looking and hoping for more and was frustrated that I had spent quite a bit of time with a novel that didn’t feel resolved.

Not sure I would go back and spend the time, but worth the finish if you do. 

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Gigi Pandian and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review!
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I read about 20% of this book, but found it so boring and hard to finish. I was excited when they found someone buried in the wall of the house, but it just moved at too slow of a pace for my overall liking. I may try to pick this one up again in the future when my head is in the right place. Being a mood reader can be difficult. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me this free ARC.
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This was a wonderful surprise of a book. 
Great writing, great characters, and a different kind of mystery.
Tempest Raj is the most well-known magician in Las Vegas, that is until a trick goes horribly wrong. With her tail tucked between her legs, she returns to her family home in California where she is reminded of a family curse. The one that supposedly killed her mother. 
While visiting the home that her father's specialty construction company was working on, her double, is found in a wall. It's definitely a perfect locked room mystery. Is the family curse real and now after her? Is there a stalker that's after her? With the help of her family, and Gideon, the stone carver, Tempest sets out to solve the mystery and clear her name. 
The author did a wonderful job of blending cultures, creating secret spaces that I wish I had, and created the beginning of a wonderful romance. I can't wait to see what happens next. What a great story!!!

**I received an ARC of this story from Netgalley and the publisher and this is my honest and voluntary review.
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UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY by Gigi Pandian
The First Secret Staircase Mystery

Tempest Raj was a top rate magician, a successful woman in a male dominated profession. Unfortunately, "was" being the key word. A disastrous fall from grace led Tempest out of Las Vegas and back to her family home in California. Visiting her father's construction crew on a job, they discover something hidden in the old wall. It's not newspaper or the usual debris, but a body. Although it appears the walls haven't been touched in over a hundred years, the body is someone Tempest just saw, her body double, the woman who sabotaged her. But was Cassidy truly the intended victim or was Tempest meant to die? Tempest starts to see and hear things that aren't there. It must be an illusion. Or could it be the Raj curse? "The eldest child dies by magic." Tempest is determined to uncover the truth.

I'm absolutely enchanted with Tempest's family home. What an incredible place I'd love to visit and explore. The idea behind it was also great and I would love to hire her father's construction crew to create some magic in my own home. I want a secret room! I also love the family bonds that are shown here, and truly the love, especially between Tempest and her grandfather, makes the book extra special. I certainly wouldn't say no to some meals cooked by Ash! I love Abracadabra and, of course, as a huge fan of the Jaya Jones mystery series I was thrilled to see Sanjay, the Hindi Houdini.

UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY has all the elements of a fantastic read. I should have loved it, instead I only liked it. I'm still not completely sure why, but I think it boils down to the following. The story line is not always linear as important backstory is slowly revealed. That aspect, as well as a large cast of characters and an incredibly complex mystery made it difficult to get truly absorbed into the story. There was just too much going on. That being said, I really did like it. Now that the groundwork is laid, future books are sure to be less cumbersome.
A wildly successful magician, who suddenly isn't, a construction company that specializes in hidden rooms, and luscious descriptions of mouthwatering food serve to make UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY a truly unique mystery.
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Tempest Raj is a talented magician, but her story opens with her back in her childhood home, in disgrace after her headlined Vegas show was sabotaged in such a way that she was blamed for it. She’s helping her dad with his remodeling business when a body tumbles out of a wall. The problem is that the wall hasn’t been opened for 100 years, but the body is that of her stunt double Cassidy, the woman she suspects of sabotaging her show. Tempest wonders if she was the intended target, and begins to worry about the family curse. For 5 generations, it’s been said, the eldest child dies by magic. Tempest lost her own aunt and mother to the curse. Now, as an only child herself, she can’t help fretting.

Tempest’s father has the coolest remodeling business ever, and I want to hire him. He specializes in adding hidden rooms, secret staircases, and spaces that require a puzzle or riddle to open. It’s so fun, and the book was a really fun read as a result.

Tempest realizes to solve Cassidy’s murder, she’ll have to figure out how she was put into the wall in the first place. It’s truly a locked-room mystery, and she turns to the classics for inspiration. In the meantime, she’s also spending time with her grandparents who live in a treehouse and cook the most delectable foods using a fusion of Indian and Scottish inspirations, still mourning the death of her mother 5 years earlier, and trying to solve a mystery while staying one step ahead of the killer.

Under Lock and Skeleton Key was a delightful read. I enjoyed it immensely, and highly recommend it.
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Loved it!
Attached is my interview with Gigi Pandian one the Crime Writers of Color Podcast.
https://www.crimewritersofcolor.com/cwoc-podcast/kellye-and-gigi
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Synopsis: Tempest Raj is back living in her childhood home after an accident (or was it sabotage?) destroyed her reputation and brought her Vegas show to a close. When the body of her stage double/nemesis is found in a situation that is the very definition of blocked-room mystery, Tempest investigates the murder, as well as the family curse that killed her mother and may be about to kill Tempest herself.

▪	A family of stage magicians: how cool is that? Tempest’s magician mother fell in love with her carpenter father and, together, they founded a company that builds hidden rooms for people’s homes. Her family lives on a property where those skills were put to use, so it is full of hidden doors and strange nooks. It’s magical.

▪	Food porn! Tempest’s grandfather loves to cook, and he is always creating dishes that mix the Indian and Scottish heritage of the family. It all sounds delicious, and there are actual recipes at the end of the book! This book made me so hungry.

▪	Quirky characters. There are so many distinctive, quirky characters: fellow magicians, childhood friends, family members, and the employees of Tempest’s father’s company. This makes a great pool of suspects and fellow investigators. There are two characters, however, that I had some trouble telling apart, which became a problem as the investigation progressed. 

▪	Solid mystery and a family curse. The murder mystery element is very strong, bringing together all the elements of a locked room mystery while also being very meta about it. The potential family curse add a hint of real magic to the illusions Tempest practices. It also adds a big dose of emotion and conflict for Tempest.

A thoroughly enjoyable mystery, especially of you’re a fan of Golden Age detective fiction.
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Under Lock & Skeleton Key is full of characters and mystery and spice. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story and can’t wait to read more. 

I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback.


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