Cover Image: Under Lock & Skeleton Key

Under Lock & Skeleton Key

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Member Reviews

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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This book was fantastic! From the characters to the storyline, The story was fast paced and a cliffhanger until the end.
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Mystery, secret passages, magicians, murder, and maybe a curse? This book has it all! And I had a lot of fun following along Tempest in her search to uncover it all before she became the next victim.  Tempest is an interesting character and I think it is cool that her heritage is from all over and how her grandpa mixes up ethnic dishes when he cooks.

I also really want to live in a house that is designed or modified by Darius, Tempest's father, with Ivy and Gideon also pitching in with their special talents.  There were so many interesting characters in the book! 

I enjoyed reading this book and would definitely read more in this series, if only to find out the mystery of Tempest's mother, plus I want to see if what Tempest will do with her myriad of magician skills and cool friends and family.
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This locked door mystery has some interesting twists but bringing in multicultural influences in story and food enhanced the story.  Tempest Raj comes from a long line of magicians.  Combining her family backgrounds from both Scotland and India, Tempest offers a unique magic show which ends up getting cancelled after she is almost killed when her act is sabotaged.  Moving home, Tempest finds herself faced with the murder of her doppelgänger and part time assistant, Cassidy.  There were many different characters that I am sure will be developed along with this series.  Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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Author Gigi Pandian has a very creative idea with the plot of Under Lock & Key. Tempest’s family owns a construction company called “Secret Staircase Construction”, adding a cool layer of hidden rooms and mystery to the story. There were a lot of interesting characters introduced, and while it was a bit confusing at times, it’s necessary for world-building to set up the series. There are also excellent descriptions of the meals prepared by Tempest’s grandfather, and recipes at the end as an added bonus. A promising start to a cool new series.
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Tempest Raj is a disgraced magician, from a family of magicians, foiled by a glitch she swears she had nothing to do with. Coming home to the other family business-building secret rooms in people's homes-the dead body of her stage double is found inside a sealed wall. Tempest must solve the mystery while fighting to regain her reputation and decide what her future holds.

This book was just so much fun. There's mystery, suspense, romance, and the depictions of the secret rooms and keys and staircases were so great to read. I definitely recommend this book and really am looking forward to more in the series.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an e ARC of this book.
A new series from an author who is new to me. Locked room mystery, magic, fantastical thinking, food (including actual recipes), delightful characters. This book has it all. Thoroughly enjoyed.
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Is it a crime or an ingenious illusion? 

“Under Lock & Skeleton Key” is the first in the new “Secret Staircase Mystery” series. Tempest Raj is a magician, a female working in a profession dominated by men. Her parents, long retired from their own careers, run a company that specializes in building “hidden rooms,” for example, one that is revealed when someone removes a designated book on a bookshelf. Characters arrive with complex backstories that are gradually revealed as the narrative unfolds. The group is almost like the “Scooby Doo” gang but with a fifteen-pound, lop-eared rabbit.

A spectacular stage accident or “Tempest’s negligence,” as the lawyers called it, put her career on hold. She returned to her family home, but plans to return to her profession. As a stage magician, Tempest knows the story comes first, and only then does the creation of the illusion for performance begin. To that end, she is Nancy Drew all grown up; she watches classic mystery movies, gets lost in tricky books, and finds riddles and mysteries everywhere. Now back at home, she finds secrets everywhere, in the most unusual and surprising places. She uncovers riddles some new, and other that have been hidden for years. 

There are endless variations on how a supposedly impossible crime can be made possible, but Tempest finds a crime, a trick, without a story and must unravel the deception. “Under Lock & Skeleton Key” is quick to read with plenty of mystery and laughs on each page.  I received a review copy of “Under Lock & Skeleton Key” from Gigi Pandian, St. Martin's Press, and Minotaur Books. Under Lock & Skeleton Key” by Gigi Pandian is now available from independent bookstores, retail outlets, online booksellers, and public libraries.
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My thanks to NetGalley for making an eARC of this book available to me.

Fans of the author's other books will definitely enjoy this one.  As should newcomers.  A fun little read, this has at least four mysteries to resolve before the book ends, and it definitely leaves you wanting to see more of this cast of characters.  The puzzles and magic descriptions are delightful, as is the concept of a business that specializes in creating hidden rooms.  Quite the niche enterprise.  As a bonus, this book also refers to Jaya Jones from another of the author's book series.  Now if she could only figure out how to refer to her gargoyle/alchemist series as well.
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This clever puzzle mystery is a delight, with the large extended cast of very likable characters, and a satisfying who- and how-dunnit at the center.  I look forward to more in the series, and hope to get more tempting descriptions of the delicious south Indian meals prepared by Tempest’s grandad.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This book is a proverbial kitchen sink of mystery tropes, which usually makes for a confused and messy novel. But it worked beautifully here and resulted in one of the most fun mysteries I’ve read in a while.

The story is a terrific ode to classic and locked room mysteries, carrying forward all of the themes that make such novels mystery classics but updated in tone for a modern audience. The story has some humor to it, which helps with the sometimes-stilted and wooden nature of golden age style mysteries.

Pandian gets right about hidden room/secret passage tropes what so many authors get wrong, and all of the architectural elements that play into the story make it a fun play-along-at-home story for the reader. While it’s not one you’re likely to solve on your own until near the end of the book, the flawless plotting and structure mean no frustrating info dump in the climax and a satisfying journey throughout the narrative.

A+ for setting, use of mystery themes and tropes, and excellent characters, and an enjoyable read for both adults and for a younger audience. I’m already eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.
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Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is the first book in the new Secret Staircase Mystery series.  This story "layers architecture with mouthwatering food in an ode to classic locked-room mysteries.  An impossible crime.  A family legacy.  The intrigue of hidden rooms and secret staircases."  The Raj family seems to be cursed, and Tempest is determined to find out why.  When her former stage double is found dead, Tempest believes that she was supposed to be the next victim of the curse.  Is she right?  Why is her family cursed?  This book was a lot of fun, and I would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys a good mystery and some fun characters.  I can't wait to read the next book in this series!  Thanks to NetGalley for the free digital review copy.  All opinions are my own.
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This might just be my new favorite cozy mystery. The story has elements of stage magic, secret rooms, and a family curse. Our intrepid investigator is Tempest, forcibly retired from her Vegas illusion act because of sabotage at her last show that nearly resulted in her death. Back home and in close quarters with her family again, she's directionless and isolated. Until a dead body falls out of the wall. And not just any body, but that of Tempest's former stage double and suspected saboteur. That's when the haunting starts. The mournful fiddle music of the mother who disappeared five years ago keeps Tempest up at night as she tries to figure out the impossible crime of how a recent murder victim wound up in a fifty-year-old wall. There are misdirections so layered and twisty that I didn't know the who, how, or why of the crime until Tempest explained it to me. And to me, that is the ideal, exciting outcome of a locked room mystery.

Beyond the mystery itself, this was a masterful take on cozy elements. I get frustrated by books in the genre that are so cozy as to be insulated from real life. In this take, the characters have multiple dimensions and real problems to contend with. It's also a diverse cast, and the author explicitly comments on racism in the context of crime. I honestly don't think I can be satisfied with a crime story that doesn't address those intersections. Also, the bonds of family and friendship are imperfect and yet welcoming. It doesn't fall flat in trying to show a fake ideal, instead showing us something living, breathing, and loving. It made me want to move to Hidden Creek right now so I can read mysteries in a train car, search for hidden doors at Fiddler's Folly, and stuff my face with Ash's delicious concoctions in the treehouse kitchen. Don't mind me as I see what Google Maps can do.

Thanks to Minotaur Books for my copy to read and review!
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This book was a multilayered mystery with likeable characters & beautiful South Indian traditions and culture. The food descriptions will leave your mouth watering. Highly recommend if you’re looking a diverse mystery that’s very unique.
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Five years ago, Tempest's mother disappeared during a magical illusion involving water. Their family's magic tricks usually involve water and it has been true that, for the last five generations, the oldest child has died under mysterious circumstances. It is known as the Raj family curse. Lately her life hasn't been so good because her last magic trick went wrong and now life is even worse because her body double (don't call her an assistant), Cassidy, has been found dead, hidden behind a wall in the house her father's construction crew is managing. 
There is a lot going on this story and I really liked the writing but the mystery just got a little too convoluted for me. 

Three and a half stars
This book come out March 22nd, 2022
ARC kindly provided by St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books and NetGalley
Opinions are my own
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Gigi Pandian's Under Lock & Skeleton Key is a charming start to a new cozy mystery series starring Tempest, a former Las Vegas magician now living with her dad and grandparents. Like the best cozy mysteries, this one features quirky, kind characters eating lots of delicious foods. Fans of meta-mysteries, in particular, will find a lot to like about the book, which references tons of Golden Age mysteries.
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Real Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

First off: This book will require you to suspend some of your disbelief and not be overly invested in being cynical and overanalyzing every little thing. 

Second: Give this book a chance and do exactly all of this and you will have a fun time reading this amateur sleuthing novel with a hefty handful of stage magic, illusions, sleight-of-hand, mentalism, and magical stories with hidden meanings. 

I have to admit that I was pretty lost for about the first 25-30% of the book. I think I might have been in chapter 8 or 9 when I actually became invested in the book. Before that point, the book was a bit of a hot mess. Too many characters being introduced in too few pages, too much exposition to set up the world of the book in that same time period as all those characters are being introduced, and barely any time at all to get to know our protagonist, Tempest (which is such a cool name). But once the plot and the players are in place, it stops being such a hot mess and just becomes an escapist sleuthing mystery with plenty of twists, turns, red herrings, and magical fun. 

I’m loath to admit it, but the character I liked the most was actually the family business: Secret Staircase Construction. Some may not agree the company itself counts as a character, but in my opinion it looms too large and permeates too much of the story for it to not be a character. And boy is it an interesting one! The combination of amazing carpentry and the know-how of a stage illusionist come together to create a company building hidden passages, stairways, rooms, and other secret things? That’s my idea of a kick-butt business! 

So lock the door on your cynicism and skepticism and throw the key into a desk drawer before you read this book. Then allow yourself to escape and enjoy!

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martins Press, and Minotaur Books for early access to this title in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Under Lock and Skeleton is a cozy mystery surrounding the fascinating Raj family and a tree house with a hidden staircase.  The premise is wonderful, but I felt it dragged on a bit, and the mystery was not as nuanced as it could be.  I would definitely give the second book a try.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley.  My review is voluntary.
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I am always looking for new cozy mysteries and was looking forward to reading this one.  this mystery has the most unique setup that I have seen.  it was a fun cozy mystery.
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Under Lock & Skeleton Key, a lighthearted cozy mystery that I wanted to like more than I did. There were a lot of characters to keep track of and read like a YA novel. Both of these things impacted my enjoyment of this book. If you like easy to read cozy mysteries then check this one out.

**I received an electronic ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review of this book.
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