Cover Image: Under Lock & Skeleton Key

Under Lock & Skeleton Key

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I liked the premise but I found the transitions really abrupt. I couldn't get that invested in the main character, especially as her narration had quite a few weird "gotcha" moments.

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A modern take on a classic locked-room mystery. Disgraced magician Tempest Raj finds herself back in her family home after her career implodes very publicly and very dramatically. Was it an accident? Was it sabotage? Or was it the old Raj family curse in which the eldest child of each generation is doomed to die by magical means?

Tempest finds herself working for her dad's home renovation company, which specializes in custom home features like hidden rooms, secret passages, and the like. While on a renovation project, a wall is removed, revealing the dead body of Tempest's former magician's assistant (who was a very close doppelganger to Tempest herself). One problem - that wall showed no signs of having been touched since the house was built, no secret passageways, no way anyone could have accessed it to place the body. How did she get in there? And why was she murdered?

Highly enjoyable. Plenty of references to classic magical tricks, classic detective fiction, and who doesn't love a locked-room mystery?

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What a magical read ;) I’m a huge fan of the cozy mystery genre and think this is the first I’ve read incorporating a magician. I loved all the characters of this book and 1000% want to move into the Raj house! For once, I did not see the end coming and really enjoyed the adventure it took me on. Keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel!

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This book had a certain charm, but it asked a lot of patience from me, it was too long, too detailed about things i didn't care about. Once I got more into the heart of the book i was glad i plugged along but really don't want to have to work this hard for a light read like this was

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"Under Lock & Skeleton Key" is a cozy mystery. This is not a "how are the tricks done" story as only two magic tricks were explained. Usually it was "she made the cards disappear" or "she pulled the book and the bookshelf door opened." I didn't expect a magic instruction book, but it turns out that being told a trick had been done had less appeal than actually seeing it done. The story was as much about backstory as the current mystery. The author destroyed the suspense several times by things like having a body fall out of a wall, then spending pages describing the background of everyone on her dad's crew (which had nothing to do with the body). Or being shocked to learn who the dead person was only to spend a chapter explaining the family curse to the reader rather than showing her reaction.

Tempest was a nice, talented gal who was willing to apologize to save a friendship. The mystery was guessable from the clues. I was distracted by false clues in the beginning, but so was everyone else. Once Tempest's charm bracelet was stolen, it was easy for me to figure out who took it and, from there, to see further connections in the mystery. While I did guess whodunit before the reveal and some of why, the mystery was complex enough to kept me guessing about various elements until the confession. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this complex mystery.

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First in a new series, with secret staircases and magic! It was quite long, so as to setup a lot of other longer term mysteries, but I’m intrigued enough to see what book 2 brings. I will say though that this really goes into some details about magic and illusions, but goes into some serious details about locked room mysteries and whatnot. I could do with a little less of the explanations as they were harder to follow along with and took me out of the stories while I was trying to fully grasp what they were saying.

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Extremely well written with a great premise, I was surprised how much I got into this book. A page turner for sure. Highly recommend.

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I'm obviously in the minority here, but I did not even finish the book, and don't intend to. I realized, after starting the novel, that I have read a Gigi Pandian novel before, which I also didn't much enjoy.

It's her writing style. I find Pandian's ideas intriguing, and I thought it was great that this novel featured a diverse set of characters, primarily Indian. I'm just not a fan of her writing style.

From the rating [on Goodreads], a lot of people are, so my opinion is not necessarily indicative of whether or not you would enjoy the novel. If the synopsis is interesting to you, it may be worth a try.

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Content warning: abuse/domestic violence

I loved the descriptions of the food in this book, as well as the South East Asian representation, and representation of a multi-cultural household. This book also included amazing mythology from around the world, which was so interesting to read about. I'm always up for a book about secret passage ways, illusions, and magic.
However, this is a YA book, but the characters are mostly in their twenties. This would be fine, but the dialogue and characterization of the different characters at time felt very immature - they were written like teenagers. The dialogue was pretty stilted and unrealistic.
Additionally, the descriptions of the scenery and surroundings was a little overwhelming and confusing. It was easy to lose track of the plot because of this at times.
Finally, this book features themes of domestic abuse and violence, which at times was discussed and thrown into the conversations like a casual plot point, instead of the heavy topic that it is. At times this was uncomfortable to read.

thank you to netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC of this book.

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I loved the setting of this mystery: a brilliant stage magician suddenly finds herself out of work and becomes involved in a locked-room mystery. Believing that she was the intended victim and that the police arrested the wrong person, Tempest engages all her knowledge of illusions and misdirection to solve the mystery.

And, as if that isn’t fascinating enough, Tempest’s family’s home is filled with secret passageways and hidden nooks and a lovely garden that’s only accessible through a door in the grandfather clock. Because that’s what happens when a carpenter falls in love with a stage magician (her father and her mother). Oh, and her grandparents live in a tree house!

Loads of fun for fans of Golden Age mystery tropes.

Minus one star since the back story seemed extremely repetitious and I would’ve preferred a tighter narrative with half the page count.

Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a digital advance review copy. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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I really loved this book!! It had so many twists and turns. It kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next!! This was my first book by this Author, and it won’t be the last!! Quick read!! Highly recommended!! You won’t be disappointed!!

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Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is an unputdownable mystery featuring an Indian-American protagonist! The story revolves around Tempest Raj, who is moving home in her mid-20's. She's happy to be eating her family's Indian food and learning what her family and old friends have been up to. One day, her former stage double is found dead inside a wall that's been closed for over a century. Was the killer after the stage double or were they after Tempest? And how was it possible for them to murder them in a sealed-off wall? Tempest will have to be solve the mystery before she ends up the killer's next victim!

Here's a fascinating excerpt from Chapter 1 that introduces the setting:

"As her dad loved to say: What happens when a carpenter and a stage magician fall in love? They form a Secret Staircase Construction business to bring magic to people through their homes.
The idea was quite romantic. Tempest’s parents specialized in building ingeniously hidden rooms for people who fancied a bookshelf that slid open when you reached for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase; or a secret reading nook that only appeared when you said the words “open sesame”; or perhaps a door in a grandfather clock that led to a secret garden. Tempest’s house—named Fiddler’s Folly for her mom’s favorite instrument, and a tongue-in-cheek reference to the architectural term for decorative buildings different inside than their outward appearance—had all three features. And many more, including the tree house in back. Tempest loved every inch of it. What she didn’t love was the fact that at twenty-six, she’d been forced to move back."

Overall, Under Lock & Skeleton Key is a captivating mystery that reminded me of a grown-up The Inheritance Games or the movie Knives Out. I enjoyed following Tempest as she puts together the clues and solves this '"locked room" mystery. One highlight of this book is the mystery aspect. I used to love reading mysteries, and this book was like a throwback to Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, and The Hardy Boys. If the author continues this series, I will definitely continue reading! Another highlight of this book was that the protagonist and several side characters are People of Color. As an Asian-American myself, I am so happy to support this book, which features an Indian-American detective. If you're intrigued by the excerpt above, or if you're a fan of mysteries, I highly recommend that you check out this book when it comes out in March!

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Murder, secret passage ways and a doppelgänger….three great things for a mystery! Add in some fun characters and a magician filled family and you’ve got a fun read.

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I really wanted to love this. In this season of life, I've really been gravitating towards magic and mystery and stories that have both that aren't violent. And in this book's case, literal escapism! I *loved* the house and all its secret nooks (who hasn't wanted to have a special, magical bedroom? a secret reading spot?) but to me, this novel got 75% of the way there: I was 75% invested in the characters, the story, and the plot itself seemed 75% developed. It also seemed so, *so* clean, to the point that some of the language felt too clunky. What 26-year old in the US uses the word "simply"? (Although maybe a 26-year old with family members from Scotland and India.) I could see this being a fun TV show, but it would be a TV show for families and not necessarily only adults.

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Tempest Raj's career as a magician imploded after her stage double Cassidy framed her for a criminally negligent stunt. She retreats to her childhood home and a pity position with Secret Staircase Construction, her father's trick architectural firm. While working on a secret compartment for a client, Tempest finds Cassidy's fresh corpse interred in the old wall. Apart from being impossible, this is alarming because it might be a manifestation of the family curse that took her mother. Aided by her mystery-loving bestie and magician ex (and fortified by her grandfather's delicious Scotch-Indian cuisine), Tempest takes the case. Cozy gothic really is the correct subgenre for this delightful mystery.

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This book was a great adventure to go on. Tempest, the fierce main character of the book is on a quest to solve the murder of her look alike, solve the family curse that predicts the death of the eldest child and find what makes her happy in this series debut.

The suspense of this book was intense, with many twists and turns. The eerie sense of someone watching Tempest translated off the page and had me double checking every corner of my house while reading,

The attention to detail really brought a lot of the hidden rooms and tricks of their family house to life.

While I really liked the characters of this book and found Tempests personality to be extremely engaging, the end left a lot to be desired. The characters alone bumped my post read initial 3 star rating up to a 4, Even having said that, I am interested in the minor romantic angle and would be interested to read the next book to see where the series goes.

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Pub date: March 15, 2022
Genre: cozy mystery
In one sentence: Magician Tempest Raj is forced back home after an accident derails her career...but then a body shows up in a sealed wall, and she has to solve the mystery.

Oh, how I love a locked door mystery, and if you throw in a company called Secret Staircase Construction, I'm going to have to read the book. This one started off a little slow for me, but it started to gain speed after the body was discovered and Tempest teamed up with her BFF Ivy to solve the case. I loved how Ivy helped her dissect mysteries and build hypotheses about what was going on, with a fun nod to Agatha Christie and other classic crime novelists. The ending surprised me with some great twists and set up the opportunity for a sequel.

And let's not forget the side characters! I loved Tempest's grandfather's Indian-Scottish fusion meals and dabbawala business. She also has an adorable bunny Abra (a great judge of character, of course).

If you're looking for a cozy mystery with a little bit of magic, give this one a try!

Thank you to St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books for providing an ARC on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Review posted to Goodreads 12/5/21, to be posted to Instagram closer to pub date.

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Thank you Netgalley for early access to this title in exchange for an honest review.

This was a fantastic first installment in a new cozy/murder mystery series. I felt that both the world and the characters were beautifully developed. I fell in love with Tempest and look forward to reading on in the series to be there for both her sleuthing and growth. This was my first time reading a book that had magicians as characters and I felt that they were handled fantastic in the sense that we got both moments of awe as well as explanations. I would definitely suggest this read to both mystery lovers and those just dipping their toes into the mystery genre.

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Food, magic, true crime all came together in this story to tell you that there are no monsters but people in monster disguise like Fred Jones would tell to Scooby-Doo. There are no curses, but people who do not want to accept the unspeakable truth. Lies might protect your loved ones until they create bigger problems than truth itself.

Tempest (also what a name) was a magician like many people on her mother's side of the family. She was part of that famous Raj klan making impossible look like an everyday thing. But she failed her last act (more like she was forced to fail her last act). Leaving everything behind along with her wealth, she came back her magic box of a childhood home to live with her father and maternal grandparents. There were limited job opportunities waiting for her, so she chose to go with more familiar one: working with her dad at his construction firm where they build secret libraries, pathways and other contraptions. On her first day at work, a wall spit out a dead body of her body double to her lap. What happened after that was fit for a famous magician.

Who could be the better detective for this almost impossible looking case other than a magician / detective book aficionado duo. One has the theoretical knowledge of all impossible use cases that human mind can put on a paper while the other has the practical knowledge of making impossible possible. With help of endless supply of really yummy food and other "practitioners", Tempest went on an expedition to find who murdered her body double and what her inheritance was. I see this book reflected as #1 of a series in some sources, and I really want it to be true since I would love to read more about Tempest and her little world of wonders.

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Let me start off by saying that I'm ready to hire Secret Staircase Construction to create my own secret room! This is tangentially related to the Jaya Jones series (the Hindi Houdini is the link) but focuses on a mystery close to home for Tempest Raj. This was fun to read and is a worthy addition to Gigi Pandian's other two series. Can't wait for Tempest's next adventure!

Thanks to St Martin's Press for access to a digital arc on NetGalley.

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