Cover Image: Under Lock & Skeleton Key

Under Lock & Skeleton Key

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Member Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian.  First, the characters are well-rounded and very likable; I am looking forward to future books with these characters.  Second, the mystery itself was well-paced with just the right amount of clues given to the readers.  Third, I loved the descriptions of the food.  Last, but not least, the architectural twists and tricks are a real treat and provide that "cherry" on top of the sundae.  Highly recommend for fans of "light" (but not too "light") mystery novels.
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Such a fun read! Magic, mystery, hidden rooms and a pretty interesting 'whodunit'!

If you like mysteries and are looking for something a little different, check out this enjoyable read.

I'm very interested in seeing what Book 2 will bring!
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“You need to understand something first. A trick is never just a trick. It’s always a story. Always. That’s the magic that makes an illusion work.”

After a disastrous accident derails Tempest Raj’s career, 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.

3.5 stars rounded up! What an absolutely precious story involving magic, secret staircases, and tree houses. The visuals in this were just fantastic! 

I loved the mystery elements wrapped up in magic and curses and stage performances. This book has a little bit of everything and was such an enjoyable read. If you like magic of any kind you will most certainly enjoy this story! 

Thank you to Netgalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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People who like mystery novels are probably predisposed to like houses with secret doors, hidden staircases, and other architectural tricks, so this mystery featuring people who build such complexities for a living is already bound to please.  Illusionist Tempest Raj is staying with family (and enjoying her grandpa’s Indian cooking) at her beloved childhood home, with all its hidden passages, after a terrible stage accident during her last show.  There’s no escape for her, though—the body of her stage double soon turns up dead in a hidden space inside the house of her father’s latest Secret Staircase Construction client.  Tempest, wondering whether she was the intended target or if a rumored family curse is at work, investigates how the victim ended up behind a wall that was supposed to have been sealed for decades.  At times things could have moved along a bit faster, but this quirky and cozy novel, with twists and references to golden age mystery writers, is completely appealing. Fortunately, the Secret Staircase team looks set to return in future books.

Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for a digital advance review copy.
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If you love a locked room mystery (like me) then please pick this up and give this cozy mystery a try!
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Review published on Goodreads, 16 March 2022:

I'm loving cozy mysteries lately since they're light, entertaining, and diverting (especially in light of all that is going on in the world right now). I've been especially looking forward to reading UNDER LOCK AND SKELETON KEY, the first installment in a new cozy series. With a multi-cultural family at its center, it brings something unique to the cozy genre. Its fusion of Scottish and Indian food, culture, and mythology is especially fun. The stage magic theme is also something different that makes it stand out. I loved these elements of the novel as well as the fact that it's a clean read, without any graphic language, violence, sex, etc. In addition, it features a likable cast of characters; a warm, tight-knit family who lives in a super quirky-fun house; able enough prose; and a plot that kept me turning pages.

A few things about the book bugged me a bit. It's definitely overwritten in places, with a lot of info dumping and a few scenes that really aren't necessary to the plot. This makes the book overly long. It could have been trimmed quite a bit to create a tighter, more focused (and thus a less confusing and more riveting) story. I also don't care for the love triangle that's developing, although I guess it does up the tension...I'm just not a fan of that particular trope.

All these things considered, I quite enjoyed UNDER LOCK AND SKELETON KEY. It's fun, it's enjoyable, and it's a (welcome) departure from the cozy norm. I'm interested to see where the series goes next.

If I could, I would give this book 3 1/2 stars; since I can't, I'm rounding up.
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Oh my gosh, this book was fun. Mystery and magic combine to create an interesting and convoluted murder plot. We also have a wonderful cast of characters. I really adored all of them. I love that this is going to be a series because I want to spend more time with them. If you like cozy mysteries and Agatha Christie I think you will enjoy this book.
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This was such a fun and cozy(ish) mystery book and I read it at just the right time. There was magic, there was food, there were puzzles, there was murder, there was a bunny....what more could I have asked for?? Oh, a second book! Coming soon. I will be reading it.
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I had so much fun rooting for everyone in this book! I love multicultural coming-of-age novels, and while it took me a bit to get all of the characters sorted in my head- I absolutely loved all of the construction elements and learning the ins and outs of creating secret spaces. Such a unique idea!

Also- kudos for the yummy food descriptions, and also the cute cover design!

Thanks so much for the review copy!
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Amazing cover, amazing story, and amazing experience. Overall, fantastic. I'm a new reader to Pandian and I'm definitely going to pick up the next.
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I loved the characters the story and the magic. I was under its spell
From The first page.  The secret doors and secret stain are things I have w acted in my life always 
Great store. I hope there are more.
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A tight pace, with plenty of enjoyable scenes. 
A great follow up in the series. Ms. Pandian has a winner series.
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Gosh it's been awhile since I read a thriller mystery and I was not let down one bit by this book. The author really pulled me into this story and I could not put it down. I'm going to pick up others books by this author.
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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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