Cover Image: Under Lock & Skeleton Key

Under Lock & Skeleton Key

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Member Reviews

An impossible crime. A family legacy. The intrigue of hidden rooms and secret staircases.

Every now and again you come across a book that is masterfully crafted, filled with nail biting action mixed with real life and grabs you on the first page. This is true of Under Lock and Skeleton Key. Pandian does an amazing job of creating characters that draw vivid, observing many wondrous spaces while blending in staple mystery ideals that reach back to Agatha Christie and the golden age of mysteries. 

This fast paced book was filled with magic, likable and vivid characters, and gave the reader a solid foundation in magic. This book is well worth the price of admission and I cannot wait to check in with Tempest again and see what happens next in her world!
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.
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I so enjoy a good mystery, and this one had me all in with hidden rooms, secret entrances, illusions, and family secrets!
Tempest Raj is an illusionist who's Las Vegas show has been cancelled after a sabotage that almost cost her more than just her show and forced her to come back to her family home to recover.  Her family, who runs Secret Staircase Construction and builds hidden rooms, has also had some mysterious difficulties with what seems like a true family curse that claims the lives of every firstborn through magic.  Has this curse come to try and claim her?  Was the "accident" in her show really meant to kill her?  When Tempest's assistant who she thinks is behind the sabotage turns up dead in a house that her father is working on, there is too much pointing toward a curse that she never gave any credence to.  
This is a delightfully whimsical mystery story that sets the groundwork for this new series while executing a really good who-done-it.  I especially loved all the cross-cultural information.  Tempest comes from grandparents of Indian and Scottish decent, and they all now live in the US.  It was so much fun to read all the Indian and Scottish references to food, history, and cultures.  My delight was made more so by the recipes in the back!  
As this is a first in the series, there were a lot of backgrounds given but it didn't seem to detract from the pace of the mystery which was impressive.  There are unanswered questions as well which is to be expected in a series, but the main mystery was solved in a complex way that I didn't see coming.  I had some of it figured in...sort-of!  This is a series that is going to stay on my radar.  
Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this fun story!  This will be out in March, 2022!
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Not what I was expecting, and unfortunately just wasn't for me. I don't see this being particularly successful in our collection, so will probably pass.
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Thank you #Netgalley for the advance reader copy of Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian in exchange for an honest review. Tempest Raj was the Tempest - a stage magician in Las Vegas. Now she is back home. Magic is part of Tempest's life, as it is also part of her family's. A family of traveling magicians. Her dad builds secret staircases. A body is found. 
I loved the characters in the story. I have not read any of her work, but really enjoyed the cooking, the use of books, museums, and library to research. I liked reading that Agatha Christie felt the why is as important as the how. This was a fascinating story.
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This fun, whimsical book is the first of a series, which is exciting! 

Tempest Raj is the latest in a line of famous magicians. Her act in Las Vegas had been extremely popular, until her assistant sabotaged her new show. Now her agent is worried she's going to be sued, and Tempest has gone home to lick her wounds and figure out how to prove she wasn't negligent but set up.

Her family lives in a very unique house and runs Secret Staircase Construction. They specialize in crafting secret rooms and hiding spaces, and do high-quality work that always has a story behind it. Or, at least, it did while Tempest's mother was alive. She disappeared 5 years ago. There has always been talk about a family curse, with the oldest child of each generation dying. But in her mother's generation, both daughters passed away (or at least, it is assumed that her mother died, as she's been gone for five years without a word).

Tempest is trying to find a way back to Vegas, but when they find her old assistant's body in the wall of the house they're renovating (a seemingly impossible magic trick, because the wall obviously hadn't been disturbed in many years), she also has to solve the mystery to get her life back on track. 

I loved this book. There are fantastic descriptions of all of the secret places in their home, the mashup recipes her grandfather makes, drawing from his Indian heritage and his wife's Scottish heritage, and the magic tricks Tempest and her magician friends employ. There is an intriguing mystery to solve, and even ghostly appearances. I look forward to the next installment of this series!

Thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy!
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Despite her best efforts, Tempest Raj ends up working for her father's company, a unique business that builds secret staircases and other childlike features into its clients homes.  When Tempest discovers a body behind a wall, she swerves in to another unexpected career:  amateur sleuth.  This charming, satisfying mystery will appeal to fans of classic mysteries.
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This book was fun and full of surprising twists!! I really loved the business of creating secret spaces, and it made this story so intriguing! The MC is fun and full of an energy that makes her so enjoyable to read about!

I thought this was a great story, and I can't wait for more!!
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I loved this book, I enjoyed the riddles and interesting magic tricks that are in this book. I love how kind and supportive all of Tempest's friends and family are.  If your looking for mystery and magic this is a must-read.
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Tempest Raj has come home after a tragic accidental fire at her Los Vegas show puts her career as a stage magician in peril.  Seeking solace in the familiar faces at home the dead body found in the walls of a home that her father is working on brings more than a little excitement to her when all she wants to do is find direction and she also might be in direct collision with her family curse?  Amazing story, captivating main character, if this is the first in a series it's a great introduction and fantastic mystery.  I am never good at figuring out who is the killer anyway but the setup for the solution is beat for beat fantastic and I was captivated every second.
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There was so much I loved about this book it’s hard to know where to start this review!

This was a multi-layered mystery with likable characters, yeah for CHARACTERS YOU CAN ROOT FOR!!!!!! 

This also is a multicultural coming of age novel, with grandparents who helped raise and nurture Tempest, our main character. The book is filled with descriptions of mouth watering South Indian dishes that her grandfather Ash prepared, recipes included at the end!!! Her grandmother was from Scotland and had her own favorite dishes.

Tempest grew up in a home that her parents had designed “it was over 4,500 square feet of magical, hidden hideaways across separate structures”. 

It is to this home that Tempest Raj has just returned after being fired from her show in Las Vegas. She had been accused of performing “tricks” that almost killed her! She was innocent of the charges but still lost her job.

She has returned to ponder where life will take her but she is soon involved in a mystery at the site of one of the “Secret Staircase Construction” sites. Tempest’s doppleganger and former stage double is found dead in a wall that has been sealed for a century. IMPOSSIBLE??  IS THERE MAGIC INVOLVED?? 

The plot quickly escalated and involved a multitude of very interesting characters, including a very mischievous bunny named “Abracadabra”.  Tempest and her best friend, Ivy, are determined to solve the mystery and also keep Tempest safe. 

It is quickly determined that Tempest’s life is in danger and it will take all of their talents to solve this puzzling mystery.

This is the 1st in what I’m sure will prove to be a great series. I can’t wait for the next addition to this magical series.

I can recommend this to any mystery lovers who would like to read something truly unique!

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.

Will post to Amazon upon publication.
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Thanks NetGalley!
This was a very cute cozy mystery, which is usually right up my alley.  But this felt like the target audience might be more young adult or younger.  I could totally see this being a Disney movie someday.  I think it is great if that's what you're looking for, it just wasn't really for me.
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Tempest Raj, aka "The Tempest," has gone home to California following an accident that has derailed her career as a stage magician. Tempest knows that the failed trick that nearly killed her was not due to neglect and proper vetting on her part, but rather the result of sabotage by her former stage double, Cassidy Sparrow. But convincing anyone else - even those she considered friends were quick to think the worst of The Tempest - would not be easy.  Now she's home, seeking comfort from those who love her unconditionally, and who make the best Indian home-cooked meals ... her grandfather.

Tempest has grown up with magic and illusions - her father started and runs a company called Secret Staircase Construction which, as the name suggests, builds secret staircases and hidden rooms for customers who've always dreamt of having such a luxury. Tempest's father would like nothing more than to have his daughter join him in the company, but Tempest, who has dreamt of - and was beginning to experience - a life as a star, headlining magician thinks that going to work for her company now would be admitting defeat in achieving her goals. But the longer she stays away from performing the more likely it will be that she needs to work for her father.

When Tempest visits her father's latest job - a renovation of a room that's been sealed for over a hundred years, Tempest and the crew discover a body. It is not, however, a 100 year old corpse. Instead, it is a body that couldn't possibly be in the room.  It is the body of Cassidy Sparrow, who Tempest last saw a month ago ... the woman who destroyed Tempest's career.

I'm not sure I can adequately relay how glad I am to see a new Gigi Pandian book! With a new publisher and a new series, I'm hoping we'll be able to follow the exploits of Tempest Raj and friends for many years to come.

This is a new mystery series (and oh how I love the idea of a Secret Staircase Construction company) which makes coming into the series easy. But for those of us who've reading Pandian's books, there are some familiar characters here ... people we have encountered in other Pandian books. This makes it new and familiar at the same time.

Pandian excels at creating interesting, loveable, believable characters. Tempest is a seriously great choice to lead a new mystery series. I loved the description of how Tempest's parents met. But it's not just her characters that are done well, Pandian is tremendous at plotting the seemingly-impossible scenarios and will keep a reader guessing until the end.

Looking for a good book? Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is the first book in a new series and will surely hook and hold a reader all the way through.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Gigi Pandian is a great writer and have read her Alchemist series.  Under Lock & Skeleton Key is a super interesting book that follows Tempest Raj and her family.  Love the grandfather and his Indian cooking - I would read an entire book with the interactions of Tempest and her grandparents (plus recipes)!  The mystery is interesting but the final resolution is just implausible.  There is a certain point where I cant make allowances for the story.  Some of the characters and events are out of left field and takes away from the overall book.  That said, her writing and the characters still deserve 4 stars.  I am looking forward to next in the series and hope the subsequent mysteries are well written.
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Who better than a magician to unravel a locked room mystery?

Tempest Raj has returned home after nearly dying in her last magic show in Las Vegas. She can't prove sabotage, but thinks her former assistant set her up. To Tempest's surprise, her father's crew find the body of her former assistant walled up in a property they are renovating. The only problem is, that section hadn't been touched in decades, so it was impossible for her to be there. Tempest and her friends (including Sanjay, from Pandian's Jaya Jones series) must unlock the mystery before Tempest becomes the next victim.

Tempest has had a rough go of it. She's broke, has had to move back home with her father and grandparents, and may be sued by the venue where she used to perform. On top of that, she may be being haunted by her mother, who disappeared years ago, possibly due to the family curse.

Tempest is a likeable heroine and you'll root for her. She's not quite as fierce as she thinks she is, but she's real and strong and has a good support system in her family and friends. She's also lucky to have friends and family who share her interest in magic and puzzles. I was frankly jealous of her living space. 

The story is well-written, and the action flows naturally. There are the requisite number of red herrings, and not too many potential villains. Like Tempest, once the reader figures out what made the crime impossible, the who and the how will follow.

Be sure to eat something before you read, as the food descriptions will make you hungry. Luckily, Pandian includes recipes in her books!

I received an advance copy from Minotaur Books and NetGalley in return for my honest review. Please check out this, and other reviews, on my site:
I just reviewed Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian. #NetGalley
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This locked-room(s) mystery is a lot of fun and ticked an awful lot of boxes for me: mystery, stage magic, family, food, history, secrets, diversity, friendship, quirkiness, and a bunny. What's not to love?

Under Lock and Skeleton Key surrounds Tempest (an out of work stage magician) her dad (the owner of a construction company specializing in secret rooms) her foodie grandparents (Indian and Scottish food go well together, apparently) and her colorful friends. After discovering a dead body in an impossible situation, Tempest is extra-shocked to discover the decedent is her ex-partner and doppelganger. Was Tempest the real mark? Or did she have something to do with Cassidy's death? Could it have been her family curse? Or maybe a g-g-ghost??

There's a lot of storytelling sleight of hand going on here. A bit of misdirection here, a reveal over there -- just try to keep up. It plays all the cozy mystery greatest hits, but with the fresh twist of a snoopy, snacky, unemployed magician for a sleuth. If you're looking for a twisty-turny mystery with the kind of characters and setting you'll never want to leave, look no further.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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okay idk why i thought this was a middle grade book based on the cover because it very much is not
lovely acknowledgment and interweaving of culture throughout this book
i loved loved loved the secret rooms and i really wish we got more of it because i think that was the best part of the book
however i did want a bit more info on tempest/cassidy and all of tempest’s trauma - i feel like we never got enough info to truly care about cassidy
love the way the reveal was executed but not the actual reveal itself??? if that makes sense
some pacing issues here and there - found no real excitement delving back into the story if i put it down for a couple hours
but i’ll def be picking up the next book
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There were some elements that I liked about this book, but overall it wasn't a winner for me. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
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Oh my goodness how did I not know about Gigi Pandan before?? I had seen references to The Accidental Alchemist and thought it looked interesting but now that I have read this book there is no way I will not race to read everything she's written... 

This was such a clever and fun story! The characterizations were great - everyone is just a little bit flawed but utterly believable for it. Plot and misdirection where as engaging as a stage show. I loved the references to famous tricks and magicians past.

But without a doubt one of my favorite elements of this book, and the one that made it stand out from other mysteries, was the magic of the construction and the glory of Fiddler's Folly and the Knights' house. The secret room building business should definitely be one that makes its way to my part of the world - I cannot imagine how glorious it would be to live in a house with secret staircase construction! 

I loved the blending of Indian and Scottish culture, the recipes at the end, and the descriptions of food throughout - as well as the mixing of mythologies and cultures. It made for a wholly original and very engaging read for me. I cannot wait for the next book in the series!
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This is a locked room mystery with food. Tempest finds herself playing detective when a body is found in a hidden area of a building her father's company is constructing. Foodies will love this book. Lots of food references and their recipies. What's not to love???
Thanks to NetGalley for providing this copy. The opinion in this review is solely my own.
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This is an absolutely charming cozy mystery with a cast of characters I long to spend more time with.
I loved Tempest's family, especially her grandparents. And there was such whimsy throughout all aspects of the settings, and meals, and relationships. There are recipes included in the back of the book for many of the delightful items included in the story. This was a rare mystery read where once it concluded I wanted the next book immediately, not just because there's a larger mystery to be solved, but because spending time with these characters felt like a happy whimsical hug that I wanted to keep basking in.
There are a lot of mystery books/authors are referenced, making it a fun read for mystery buffs.
The only thing keeping it from being a five star read for me is that sometimes its a little repetitive, with the same thoughts and sentiments repeated from one chapter to another. And because this is the first book in a series, there are plenty of stories that are teased, but not fully explored in this novel that I assume will play larger roles in future novels.
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