Cover Image: Under Lock & Skeleton Key

Under Lock & Skeleton Key

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Member Reviews

This book was so much fun! Magic, mystery, secrets, and family curses woven throughout the adventure makes this book impossible to put down. The descriptive writing is something I loved in this book and so much of it brought me back to things I loved as a child. 

Great start to a new series!
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I hope this becomes a long running series. It now has a place on my list of best books I've read this year (there are only two) Tempest and her family are wonderful - wish they had a room for me. Murder, magic, locked room and name dropping of so many of my favorite authors. I was a Nancy Drew fan as a kid and then I discovered John Dickson Carr and so many more, this was a must read for me as soon as I saw it listed on NetGalley. I wasn't disappointed...except when I finished it, that is.
Tempest returned home to Hidden Creek, CA after her career as a stage magician imploded in a big way. Her father runs the family construction company, Secret Staircase Construction. Her late mother had the magic touch that made the business flourish and her father is struggling. (I can't wait to learn more about her mother) Then there is a body, and a curse....I won't say more for fear of spoilers. If you like strong characters, mystery and magic do not hesitate to read this fantastic mystery.
My thanks to the publisher Minotaur and NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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This one just wasnt for me. I'm not sure if it's just when I was reading it I wasn't in the mood for a cozy thriller or the book itself. I will give this book another try at a later date but for now I'm going to have to pass on it.
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The child in me who always wanted to find a secret staircase and loved reading about various magicians and grew up reading Encyclopedia Brown, The Westing House, and Nancy Drew was instantly drawn to Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian.

Tempest is a famous magician from a family of magicians, who also happen to have a family curse. Her family owns a construction business that puts secret rooms and stairways into buildings. Tempest’s own house is full of secret rooms. Tempest and her best friend grew up reading various mystery authors, who are mentioned throughout the book. And there is a mystery library with a train car that seems to actually move.

Come on! How could anyone not think this is a fantastic world that Pandian has created… now if only it was real and I could be friends with Tempest.

And besides the fabulous world that was created, Pandian does a great job with character development too. Lots of quirky characters and people who truly seem caring and that they would always have your back. 

While I was pretty sure I knew the killer early on, it didn’t take anything away from the story. I will admit though I was a bit confused when the reveal happened. There were so many moving parts, which I usually find very enjoyable, but I just couldn’t grasp it all. Perhaps if I reread the ending a time or two I would be able to follow along, but I have way too many other books to read!

Will my confusion at the reveal stop me from reading future books in the series? No! I am actually really looking forward to the next book in the series.
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Under Lock and Skelton Key 
by Gigi Pandian
Pub Date: March 15, 2022
MInotaur
Thanks to the author, Minotaur, and NetGalley for the ARC.  As a cozy, this really has it all, a complex, interesting mystery with thrill, chills, and intrigue along the way….…
Happy Publication Day! 
Although I didn’t love this novel, I’m sure others will have lots of fun with it. I recommend this to readers that enjoy YA and are looking for a light murder mystery. The parts of the story I loved were the sections that focused on Tempest’s family dynamics, the scrumptious food descriptions, and when she channeled her inner Hercule Poirot was well-done. There are some mouth-watering vegan-friendly recipes at the end of the book.
3 stars
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I received a complimentary ARC copy of Under Lock & Skeleton Key (Secret Staircase Mystery #1) by Gigi Pandian from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press /Minotaur Books in order to read and give an honest review.  

…As a cozy this really has it all, a complex, interesting mystery with thrill, chills and intrigue along the way….…

Being a fan of Gigi Pandian’s Jaya Jones series, I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to read and review Under Lock & Skeleton Key, the first book of her locked room Secret Staircase Mystery Series. Those of you familiar with the Jaya Jones series will find some homage paid to it in this newest series however it works well as a standalone.

As the book opens, we meet Tempest Raj who has recently fallen from grace as a magician in Las Vegas After a trick goes horribly wrong Tempest barely escapes with her life but loses her reputation and is publicly disgraced. After losing everything Tempest returns to her family’s home in California. Tempest’s childhood home was far from normal, she grew up in a home any kid would love, filled with secret staircases and enchanted gardens. Her family owned the Secret Staircase Construction company which specializes in hidden and unique home designs inspired by magic. Her mother, the company’s creative vision, long gone, her father struggles to keep the company afloat. When Tempest was doing well with her Las Vegas act she had been sending money home to help her family but now she is doing all she can to find a way to help them.

When the body of her stage double is found inside a long-sealed wall in her father’s current project, she feels compelled to get to the bottom of it. When strange things begin to happen to Tempest along with her look-alike’s murder it is becoming clear that Tempest is at the heart of the murder, and she must solve it before she becomes the killer’s next victim.

Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is a unique and extremely fun cozy mystery. I love the fact her books feature diverse, multi-faceted characters who all feel well-formed and really add to the story. As a cozy this really has it all, a complex, interesting mystery with thrill, chills and intrigue along the way….featuring some great Indian food (with recipes at the back), everything a reader could ask for. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the further adventures of Tempest Raj.
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Her career and reputation in shambles, Tempest returns home to her family in California while she figures out what to do next. She tries to resist going to work for her father's company, but gets pulled into the business more and more every day. When what appears to be an impossible crime is committed, Tempest thinks she was the intended victim. She decides it's up to her to solve the puzzle, using her family's connections, and all her skills as an illusionist. 

This is the first book in a new series by a new-to-me author, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. It doesn't suffer from so many of the issues I've encountered in other series starters, and the writing is well done. The setting was very imaginative, and I'd love to visit the family home, but I'm not sure I'd want to live in a place that has so many secret rooms, staircases, and ways to open doors. The main characters are people I'd like to get to know, but I get the feeling that some of them appear in the author's other series, so I felt like I was missing the background on some of them. 

The mystery was more complex than in many cozies, trying to solve a crime and a significant puzzle related to the crime at the same time, as well as a puzzle involving Tempest's personal life. There were several viable suspects for the crime, and I guessed the identity of the culprit  before it was revealed in the book, but the related puzzle was more difficult to figure out. The personal puzzle was even more of a challenge, but I enjoyed the way that was resolved. 

The only thing that bothered me was the  many references to things that happened to derail Tempest's career without giving us the whole story, but it did all come out as the book progressed, so at least readers aren't left hanging until future books in the series. I have already added the author's other series to my to-read list, and I look forward to reading the next book in this series.
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This book had it all, a mystery, some magic, an interesting back story, family history and great characters. Tempest is such an interesting main character. She is a magician and I love the illusions that are described in the story. She's also just returned home after losing her job as a performer in Las Vegas. Her family all lives on a compound together, so she is coming home to her Dad and her grandparents. The house that they live in sounds amazing with all of the secret stairways and nooks and crannies to explore. This is a unique mystery that had many surprises, but also the characters are so engaging that I didn't want the book to end. The narrator added to my enjoyment of this audio book with the different accents that were used for different characters. A wonderful start to a new series!

I received a complimentary copy of this audio book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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A thrill of a cozy mystery! Truly magical.  Following  a disgraced magician when her doppelganger turns up down, this book is full of great food, an amazing setting (complete with hidden staircases), classic mystery references and most importantly representation.
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What a fun adventure of a mystery!

I love a good mystery that is more than just a whodunnit and this was just what I needed. 

Tempest was born into a family surrounded by illusions and became an illusion herself; becoming a well known magician. She used this outlet to get closer to her family, especially her mother to try to figure out why she disappeared. When misfortune befalls her, and she returns home because of it, she only comes up with more questions trying to figure out where she fits in and what she wants out of life. 

Combining aspects of magic, curses and secret passageways is such a creative way to bring excitement to a story. I feel like I was just one of many people who always dreamed of having secret hideaway spaces and hidden passageways in my home. There’s something so rewarding about figuring out the riddle or puzzle to get through. But when you add in unknown variants, it can really ramp up to be an adventure.

Reading through this story, I really felt like I was a part of it, uncovering things as they did to put the puzzle pieces together. Getting the full picture can be tedious, but these characters made it very engaging to keep me turning the pages to see what came next. 

It was quite imaginative as well as descriptive, which I love, so it was very easy for me to picture the characters and the settings in my mind. I could even hear the music and smell the food! Now to wait for the next installment…

Thank you to the author, Minotaur Books and NetGalley for the ARC ebook!
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“Anyone who has a mentor who calls himself Nicodemus the Necromancer isn’t a normal person.” 

This is such a quirky start to a new series.  There is a little bit of a mashup of genres, including a few mysteries running through the book, while reading like a cozy at times and a more serious mystery too.  There is some humor, see my earlier quote, and just a hint of romance.  I will admit at times it seems to lose it’s focus, but quickly gains it back.

There is magic, secret rooms and trap doors, Indian and Scottish culture and folklore and homage to old school mystery writers including John Dickson Carr, Edgar Allan Poe and Agatha Christie.  

Cast of characters I like.  Tons of red herrings.  Have I convinced you to give this one a try yet?  I saw the author speak tonight and she described it as Scooby Doo for adults and I love this analogy.  There is a mystery that hints at being supernatural, but is grounded in the here and now.  There is a great group of friends trying to solve the murder and while it has a gothic feel because of all of the secret rooms being built, it never gets to be too scary.

And I almost forgot to mention the fabulous cover.  it has all kinds of details from the story.  It really caught my attention.

I can’t wait for the next one and will need to go and look up the author’s backlist.
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I have been reading a number of mysteries this month, including Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, and if you're a fan of the classic mysteries, you should find this book to be a lot of fun. Tempest is a magician storyteller who left Las Vegas in disgrace after she was framed by her stunt double for being reckless in her show, and is now in San Francisco living with her dad and grandparents. She comes from a long line of magicians on her mother's side and is home licking her wounds while trying to figure out what's next. Her father runs a business building custom secret rooms in people's homes and he is hoping she will join forces with him, ever since they lost her mother under mysterious circumstances. Her grandfather is a retired doctor and now a creative chef who combines the foods of multiple countries, especially India and Scotland, the heritage of himself and his wife, Tempest's grandmother. Her grandmother is an artist and together they live on a plot of land with tree houses and many secret rooms. 

Although the story started on the slow side, I think that was a way for the author to introduce us to the world of Tempest's family. And what a fascinating family it is! I wanted to explore every inch of the family's land, as well as the homes of the building company's workers. I wanted to see Gideon's sculptures in person. And OMG, the food. I wanted to sample everything her grandfather made. My mouth was watering throughout most of this book. Thankfully the book includes some recipes at the end, so I get the feeling I'm going to try some of them! I loved the discussions about magic, locked room mysteries, misdirection, although I will admit there was some repetition in this book. There were moments when I felt like she was writing for a younger audience because of this. But despite these moments, there were many moments that she included in this story that made me want to visit the world, and to me, that's one of the marks of a good book. I look forward to future books in this series.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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I have read some of Gigi's Jaya Jones mystery series and was thrilled to see Sanjay in this series too.

Tempest Raj is an illusionist and it is a path that runs in her family. All is going well and she has a show in Vegas until a new performance goes awry which causes her to lose her show, her house, and all she has worked for to get to this point. So she returns home and is trying to get settled when a dead body is discovered and someone is gaslighting Tempest.

This book is all about misdirection when it comes to this mystery. How did the stunt double end up in a wall that has been closed up for 50 years? Where is that music coming from? What is the key that Tempest has found go to? All good questions and they are all answered by the end of the book. I was glad of that because nothing worse (to me) than having to wait until the next book to get the answer to some of my questions. But the mystery was engaging and I had no idea what direction to look or who to suspect. I was surprised by the revelations and never expected these characters to be involved, but maybe I should have.

I loved the business that her dad has and wonder if I could make a secret room somewhere in my own home right now. I would love a secret passage or a hideaway reading nook where I could escape when I wanted to be alone.

I also enjoyed all of the dishes that Ash prepared for the family and chuckled when Tempest checked her father's refrigerator and it was basically empty except for a few items. I am going to have to give the cardamon cookies a try because I do love a good shortbread and this is a bit of a mashup and sounds delicious.

This was a good start to an intriguing new series. We give it 4 paws up.
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I read a short story by Gigi Pandian and really enjoyed it and was eager to read this full-length novel, Under Lock and Skeleton Key. This cozy mystery is about stage magician Tempest Raj, who returns to her childhood home in California after a professional disaster and is faced with a perplexing locked room mystery. Other weird things are occurring in her life which makes her think the story about a Raj family curse may actually be true. 

The characters are interesting and the premise is very unique. There are some pacing issues, and sometimes the story veers off course and becomes confusing. However, overall I enjoyed the book, and would rate it 3.5 stars.

I received this ebook from NetGalley through the courtesy of Minotaur Books. An advance copy was provided to me at no cost, but my review is voluntary and unbiased.
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Under Lock & Skeleton Key is one of the most unusual and satisfying cozy mysteries I've ever read.  Steeped in magical realism, the book centers around Tempest Raj (a/k/a "the Tempest"), a famous magician who returns to her childhood home in disgrace after one of her tricks in her Las Vegas show goes dreadfully wrong.  The mystery begins when her former assistant's body is discovered in a secret closet located in a home that her father's company -- the Secret Staircase Construction business -- is renovating.  Not only is the plot riveting, but I really appreciated the multi-culturalism of the characters. I am looking forward to the second book in this series.  5/5 stars.  Highly recommended.            

Thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a such a cool mystery and I loved what the Secret Staircase Construction company did with buildings. I thought Tempest's secret quarters in the house were especially awesome. I was glad to see she was able to make amends with an old friend now that she was home, and I just loved her grandparents. Grandpa was so funny how he was always wanting to feed people, must be a grandpa thing! I could definitely see why Nancy Drew was one of Tempest's favorites since all Nancy did was find mysterious staircases, attics and rooms similar to what Tempest's dad's company built. Tempest's former occupation of illusionist was a unique one for a cozy main character too.

The characters were great, and I enjoyed the whole search for the killer. It took a lot of winding paths to finally get to the answer which was something I sure didn't see coming. I loved how Tempest came to her decision at the end and can see this being a fun and cool series I'll want to read more in!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book provided by Minotaur/St. Martin's Press via NetGalley, and my opinions are my own.
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Last month I was sent the arc of Under Lock and Skeleton Key to review through NetGalley! I’ve had this book on my TBR list since I saw it first pop up and it was also the first book I’ve read written by Gigi Pandian.

I enjoyed this read so much! Every time I thought I had a sense of what was going on or about to happen, a new twist in the story would appear. I truly had no idea who the murderer was until the last few chapters and I loved some of the characters played out in the book. The main character, Tempest, was just as enchanting as her family history. With a family curse hoovering over her head and odd events always showing up or making an appearance, this book had me invested in the story big time! I loved the theme of this book and found it to be a breath of fresh air, it was different and I’m always craving something new. Tempest was a performer magician and had her own show, she was one of many magicians in her family including her mother and aunt. There was a sprinkling of myth throughout this story ranging from selkie’s to ghosts.

I really loved this book and I hope the author writes more in the series. It held my interest very well and was a good page turner! This certainly won’t be the last I read of Gigi Pandian, I’m looking forward to dipping my toes into her other mystery series.
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Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is a mystery with a lot of spark and subterfuge. I loved so many things about this story. The magician tricks and architectural wonders are at the very top of the list, as who doesn’t like secret passageways and hidden rooms, not to mention illusions meant to trick the eye. It’s just chocked so full of fun. 

The characters are well-developed, quirky, full of life and love. I couldn’t help but enjoy each and every one. The mystery is complex and masked by plenty of red herrings that left me stumped until the end. I even loved the main character’s name – Tempest, and that says everything you need to know about her. 

She comes from a family of magicians and has her own magic show in Las Vegas until one of her tricks goes tragically wrong. She was lucky to escape with her life. She is passionate about her family and her art, which shows in everything she does. Forced to return home, Tempest is helping her father with the family business, Secret Staircase Construction, when a dead body drops into their lives – a murder that only an experienced magician can solve. 

I also loved the cultural exploration in the story as Tempest comes from a profoundly multi-cultural family. Did I mention Abracadabra? He is an adorable rabbit owned by Tempest, and he helps solve the mystery in unexpected ways. The only thing I struggled with at times was the long-windedness of the exposition at points. But the content was so fascinating that it more than made up for that. Under Lock and Skeleton Key is a fun, quirky mystery with plenty of magic tricks and secrets to delight every reader. Just say Abracadabra and see what happens.
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Under Lock & Skeleton Key pays homage to many great classic mystery writers. Tempest and Ivy often refer to books they have read to help guide their investigations, and it felt as though they needed to refer to those books a bit more a few times.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. But it felt as though the writing was a bit clunky. Some parts were repetitive; how many times does the rabbit hutch have to be described? Other parts didn’t feel like they were explained enough. I understand that Tempest is a magician, as is her friend Sanjay, and thus some “secrets” need to remain, but when reading a mystery, a reader wants to understand the thought process of the investigators. Or at least this reader does.
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What an excellent start to a new series! We have a family with a historic connection to magicians, with both Indian and Scottish heritage. We have a cool family business, Secret Staircase Construction, which specializes in creating secret nooks, hidden bookcases, etc. (I just love this! It made me think of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA, which we visited several years ago.). And we have a grandfather who cooks delicious sounding foods which combine both Indian and Scottish traditions (such as cardamom shortbread cookies). The main character, Tempest Raj, is a magician/illusionist who nearly died in a magic “trick” gone terribly wrong. She is now living back at her family home, which is filled with all kinds of quirky features, thanks to her parents’ business. Is there a family curse, by which the “eldest dies by magic” or is all an illusion meant to make Tempest think she’s going crazy? How did a dead body fall out of a wall that hadn’t been touched in decades? It’s a classic locked room mystery, set in the San Francisco Bay area. And what about Tempest’s unusual charm bracelet given to her by her mother before she disappeared five years earlier? In addition to a clever mystery with lots of twists and turns, I loved the emphasis on family and friendship. In addition to Tempest herself, there were several terrific side characters: her dad, Darius, her friend Ivy, and her magician friend, Sanjay, to name a few. This is my first book by this author and I am definitely going to check into her other books now.

Don’t miss the recipes at the end of the book, if you were as intrigued as I was by the food served throughout this book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for the opportunity to read an advance readers copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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