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Under Lock & Skeleton Key

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Under Lock & Skeleton Key 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. 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- Under Lock & Skeleton Key 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. 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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Under Lock & Skeleton Key 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. 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- Under Lock & Skeleton Key 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. 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.

30 review for Under Lock & Skeleton Key

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    ***HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY*** OH WHAT FUN THIS BOOK WAS, A WONDERFUL SURPRISE!!!! 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 prepar ***HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY*** OH WHAT FUN THIS BOOK WAS, A WONDERFUL SURPRISE!!!! 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melissa (Extremely Behind)

    3.5 stars, rounded up This was a fun read for me, it took a while to get into it because there are a large number of characters and it's a bit difficult to keep them straight. In the end though, it's a clever puzzle-type mystery. I love the combination of Tempest's family's construction business--all about creating hidden rooms and spaces that require a bit of know-how to enter, along with Tempest's career as a stage illusionist. There is a great deal of theming about misdirection and how it can b 3.5 stars, rounded up This was a fun read for me, it took a while to get into it because there are a large number of characters and it's a bit difficult to keep them straight. In the end though, it's a clever puzzle-type mystery. I love the combination of Tempest's family's construction business--all about creating hidden rooms and spaces that require a bit of know-how to enter, along with Tempest's career as a stage illusionist. There is a great deal of theming about misdirection and how it can be used for both good and bad. The mystery itself isn't particularly mind boggling, but when the different pieces are put together, it's mostly the "how" rather than the "why" that intrigued me the most. There's also the inclusion of some delicious sounding food (with recipes included in the back) combining Tempest's Scottish and Indian heritage. This was a fun-enough book that I will enjoy reading others in the series. There's still the mystery of what exactly happened to Tempest's mom that needs to be solved, and I need to know the answer to that one! I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Under Lock & Skeleton Key should have been a book that I loved, but unfortunately, it fell a bit flat. It has everything I would typically lap up: delicious descriptions of food, secret rooms and staircases, a curse, and classic murder mystery elements. After a near-death experience at one of her popular magic shows, which ultimately ended her career, Tempest Raj finds herself living at home with her parents. She knows her father doesn’t need her help at his Secret Staircase Construction company Under Lock & Skeleton Key should have been a book that I loved, but unfortunately, it fell a bit flat. It has everything I would typically lap up: delicious descriptions of food, secret rooms and staircases, a curse, and classic murder mystery elements. After a near-death experience at one of her popular magic shows, which ultimately ended her career, Tempest Raj finds herself living at home with her parents. She knows her father doesn’t need her help at his Secret Staircase Construction company, but her options are limited. One day when Tempest is on-site with her father, the crew finds a dead body crammed behind a wall. They have no idea how the body came to be there, and they soon realize that the dead body is Tempest’s former body double. Tempest believes the murderer was after her because of a family curse that dates back several generations. Although the police make a quick arrest, she refuses to believe they have the real culprit. And so, Tempest embarks on her own investigation. I think I would have enjoyed this novel when I was younger. It’s not clear who is the target audience for this book. Tempest is in her mid-twenties, but the writing style reads on the younger side. I had to double-check how old Tempest was because it felt like I was reading from a much younger protagonist’s pov. The writing was repetitive as well. It’s not necessary to drill the same points over and over again. There were parts that I did enjoy. The sections that focused on Tempest’s family dynamics, the scrumptious food descriptions, and when she channelled her inner Hercule Poirot was well-done. There are some mouth-watering vegan-friendly recipes at the end of the book. 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. Thank you to Minotaur Books for providing a review copy via Netgalley. https://booksandwheels.com

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    This gothic cozy mystery ticks every box for gripping, adventurous, exciting reading experience for me! Nancy Drew meets with my favorite magician movies including Prestige and Now You See Me ( or Bollywood’s Dhoom 3)! The characters were lovely especially the Magician family of our MC Tempest Raj! The ideas of vanishing in secret rooms and hidden entrances, the family curse were temptingly intriguing! The pacing was capturing. The action parts balanced with love triangle. The story development This gothic cozy mystery ticks every box for gripping, adventurous, exciting reading experience for me! Nancy Drew meets with my favorite magician movies including Prestige and Now You See Me ( or Bollywood’s Dhoom 3)! The characters were lovely especially the Magician family of our MC Tempest Raj! The ideas of vanishing in secret rooms and hidden entrances, the family curse were temptingly intriguing! The pacing was capturing. The action parts balanced with love triangle. The story development was unique and the mystery picks your interest! The conclusion was also satisfying enough for you to want to read more books of this brand new installment! Let’s take a look at the plot and make introductions of characters and this impressively well constructed world building! Tempest Raj returns back to family home located at Hidden Creek, California after having nearly death experience during stage performance which is the main reason why her career just sank. Now she has to rebuild her reputation and work for fresh start! Her family’s construction business focused on building secret rooms with hidden entrances. Instead of rebuilding her career, Poor Tempest finds herself in the middle of murder investigation. Her doppelgänger stage assistant is found death at the site of her father’s one of the construction projects. Did somebody target her and accidentally kill the poor assistant? And she also hears about the curse that kills the eldest child in the family! Could the curse affect her? What about her deadly stage accident? Did her mother and aunt kill because of the curse? She has to team up with magician friend Hindu Houdini and her best friend to dig out more to find out who’s the culprit by taking us an action packed adventure takes place hidden entrances of unique buildings! Well this was so much fun! I loved the magician family and those mouth watering Indian and Scottish food recipes at the book. I’m looking forward to read the next books of the series! Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press/ Minotaur Books for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    JaymeO

    HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY! Abracadabra! Tempest Raj is taking a break from her Vegas magic act after a terrible accident happened on stage. Returning to her childhood home, she enjoys eating her Indian grandfather’s delicious meals. However, she feels that she is slowly being pulled into the family business, Secret Staircase Construction. When she visits one of her father’s job sites, she discovers her former stage double dead inside a wall. How did she get inside the wall? Was she murdered? Was Tempe HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY! Abracadabra! Tempest Raj is taking a break from her Vegas magic act after a terrible accident happened on stage. Returning to her childhood home, she enjoys eating her Indian grandfather’s delicious meals. However, she feels that she is slowly being pulled into the family business, Secret Staircase Construction. When she visits one of her father’s job sites, she discovers her former stage double dead inside a wall. How did she get inside the wall? Was she murdered? Was Tempest the intended victim? Has the family curse finally come for her? What I loved: Abracadabra, Tempest’s adorable and sneaky bunny sidekick 🐰. It’s a fabulous name for a magician’s pet! The lengthy food descriptions made my mouth water. Yum! What didn’t work for me: The audiobook is read very slowly and does not improve when sped up. Instead, it just sounds robotic. It would have been better if there was an option for a custom speed on the NetGalley app between 1 and 1.25. I listened on 1 because it was easier on the ears, but it took longer than I would have preferred to finish it. The plot is reminiscent of a Scooby Doo episode, which lends itself to a YA vibe. This is also highlighted by the fact that it reads like a coming of age novel, even though Tempest is in her twenties. It is also a very slow burn mystery as the real action only started at around 60%. While the plot wrapped up nicely, this is the first book in the series, so there will be more cozy mysteries to come! 3/5 stars Expected publication date 3/15/22 Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the ARC of Under Lock and Skeleton Key in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Darla

    It is hard to resist a locked room mystery with a heroine who lives in a house filled with secret rooms and staircases. I've always wanted to have a library where you pull out just the right book and the bookcase turns to reveal a secret room. Dun, dun dun. What I do have is an office with a bookcases on either side of our Murphy bed. Close enough, I guess. Anyway, Tempest Raj is a stage magician whose career went on the skids. She leaves Vegas to go back home (to the house with all the hidden r It is hard to resist a locked room mystery with a heroine who lives in a house filled with secret rooms and staircases. I've always wanted to have a library where you pull out just the right book and the bookcase turns to reveal a secret room. Dun, dun dun. What I do have is an office with a bookcases on either side of our Murphy bed. Close enough, I guess. Anyway, Tempest Raj is a stage magician whose career went on the skids. She leaves Vegas to go back home (to the house with all the hidden rooms and staircases). Her dad resembles The Rock (hubba, hubba). She has a pet rabbit named Abracadabra and her grandparents live on the property in a treehouse. Her charm bracelet -- a gift from her late mother -- sounds fascinating. Would love to see a picture of it. I'll leave it at that so I don't give away any of the plot. Classic mystery fans will enjoy this one as will younger generations. This book definitely has multi-gen appeal. The cast is racially diverse and it is just the beginning of a series. There are also a few nods to Shakespeare -- specifically "The Tempest." Thank you to Minotaur and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is the first book of the locked room Secret Staircase Mystery series. While this is the first book of the Secret Staircase Mystery series the mystery within the book is solved so it could be read as a standalone if choosing to do so. Tempest Raj has been working as a magician in Las Vegas but lost her job when wrongly accused so she has headed back to her childhood home in California. The home Tempest grew up in is unique to say the least with her family Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is the first book of the locked room Secret Staircase Mystery series. While this is the first book of the Secret Staircase Mystery series the mystery within the book is solved so it could be read as a standalone if choosing to do so. Tempest Raj has been working as a magician in Las Vegas but lost her job when wrongly accused so she has headed back to her childhood home in California. The home Tempest grew up in is unique to say the least with her family owning Secret Staircase Construction which specializes in hidden and intricate home designs which of course compose their own home. As Tempest is just settling in back in California she goes for a visit to her father’s latest project. Things become complicated for Tempest though when a body is found inside of the project, a body that looks suspiciously like her former stage double. With an obvious murder occuring that looks like it may have been directed at Tempest herself she decides they need to find the killer fast. Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is sort of a cozy mystery but it doesn’t fit all the way into the cozy mold being just slightly different which wasn’t a bad thing. The characters are diverse and the theming was certainly unique with the out of the ordinary constructions. There’s also some some food talk too of Indian and Scottish origins with recipes included at the end. This first book was a lot of character building which for me moves a little slower getting used to the new series so I rated this one three and a half stars and would definitely be interested in returning. I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley. For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chantel

    Tempest Raj is a twenty-six (26) year-old magician who found herself in a near-death stunt that landed her living at her childhood home with members of her family who cook, coddle & coo around her & tend to her every need. Tempest is on the brink of what she fears might be rock bottom; having lost whatever good graces her magician’s act had given her. In this first instalment of what one might presume to become a series, Tempest finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery; how can a recently Tempest Raj is a twenty-six (26) year-old magician who found herself in a near-death stunt that landed her living at her childhood home with members of her family who cook, coddle & coo around her & tend to her every need. Tempest is on the brink of what she fears might be rock bottom; having lost whatever good graces her magician’s act had given her. In this first instalment of what one might presume to become a series, Tempest finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery; how can a recently deceased body be found behind an aged wall? Well, most unfortunately for me I did not enjoy this story at all & I will preface this long-winded review by stating simply that this was not meant for people in my age group. I am a couple of years older than Tempest & found her behaviour ranging from absurd to ludicrous. I began to wonder if this character was written as someone who might reflect what younger audiences might think someone in their mid-twenties to be. My reason for questioning the authenticity of Tempest’s character was truly brought about because the writing style employed in this book is very juvenile. The transitions between thoughts, scenes & events circle around a select few catchphrases which would behold the interest of a young audience. This is certainly not a negative thing if the book were targeting young people. Unfortunately, it is being put forth as an ‘adult’ read & for that reason, I found it fell very flat. I would like to highlight that books are not necessarily restricted to us based on our ages. One can find themselves, for example, appreciating Le Petit Prince at any age because the writing style is filled with artful transitions & beautiful prose. What differentiates this story from one which might be appreciated throughout the ages is the fact that nothing was very magical. By this, I mean that the writing was not bewildering; it was bland & led us around the same corner, over & over again. We see this in the first chapters when Tempest continuously repeats how important a meeting is for her. We understand that the meeting is important, this does not need to be told more than twice. For this reason, I felt that the storyline might appeal to younger audiences as they might be more willing to forgive redundancy than I. As someone who can, more often than not, clock the twist in the opening chapters of a book, I found this story to not hold much depth in the plot to lead me to want to continue reading until everything was revealed. Being an avid reader of Agatha Christie’s I find myself always paying close attention to wording; even the most mundane phrase is often where the reveal is found. For this reason, I was, again, lead to reflect upon the target audience of this story. The premise of the plot holds a great deal of potential; the book will be beloved by many a young reader, of that I am certain. However, as someone who has lived in the adult world for many years & has spent many a stormy night reading brooding mystery novels, I found this story to not be anything particularly pleasing for me. The actions that the characters took touched the surface of what they could be. Tempest herself has very shallow interactions with people who are described as being very close to her. I suppose this comes down to the writing style; things were told to the reader rather than them being shown. This is not to say that there were not detailed descriptions, there were, often ample. Ultimately, this book was not for me. Should you read this review & wonder if you should read the book I would encourage you to give it a chance. Everything I stated was from a very subjective standpoint. If you’ve not delved into closed-door mysteries, this story might appeal to you. If you are fine with redundant descriptors, the length of this book will not bother you. I will say that I appreciated the touches of combined culture which presented themselves within the cooking practices of the characters. This trait did bring the characters together & forged what one might view as a genuine family experience which was authentic to the story we were reading. I’m sure we will see this story find its way to the ideal target audience as time moves forward & I am glad for every person who reads this story & adores it. Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press & Gigi Pandian for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie DeMoss

    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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linden

    Tempest is a magician. She had a famous act in Vegas until something went terribly wrong and she was blamed. She decides to leave, and returns home to her small northern California hometown to help her dad with his business, Secret Staircase Construction, which is known for building secret rooms. When a body is found in one of the houses, everyone is shocked, especially Tempest, because it's someone she knows from Vegas, the very person responsible for her current situation. Her knowledge of mag Tempest is a magician. She had a famous act in Vegas until something went terribly wrong and she was blamed. She decides to leave, and returns home to her small northern California hometown to help her dad with his business, Secret Staircase Construction, which is known for building secret rooms. When a body is found in one of the houses, everyone is shocked, especially Tempest, because it's someone she knows from Vegas, the very person responsible for her current situation. Her knowledge of magic proves helpful as she and her friend Ivy set out to find the murderer. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the ARC.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    I'm having a hard time naming what my critique of this book is, because I quite liked the characters and the "set pieces" of the solution. I also appreciated that this was a cozy that didn't feel overly twee. I guess my main issue is that the connective tissue between key moments in the book felt sort of rushed or phoned in? Like the book was just in a hurry to get to the next cool moment. Those moments were definitely cool, so I still enjoyed this, but it would been better for me if it had had I'm having a hard time naming what my critique of this book is, because I quite liked the characters and the "set pieces" of the solution. I also appreciated that this was a cozy that didn't feel overly twee. I guess my main issue is that the connective tissue between key moments in the book felt sort of rushed or phoned in? Like the book was just in a hurry to get to the next cool moment. Those moments were definitely cool, so I still enjoyed this, but it would been better for me if it had had a few less cool moments and more room to breathe

  12. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Such a fun mystery full of masterful illusions, innovative architecture, and food! Tempest comes from a family of magicians/illusionists and has always heard there is a curse on her family that the eledest child dies from magic - and this has been true for five generations. Tempest doesn't know if she believes in the curse or not. Tempest was a headline performer in Vegas until an onstage incident that she was blamed for, caused her to se everything and go home to Hidden Creek to stay with her f Such a fun mystery full of masterful illusions, innovative architecture, and food! Tempest comes from a family of magicians/illusionists and has always heard there is a curse on her family that the eledest child dies from magic - and this has been true for five generations. Tempest doesn't know if she believes in the curse or not. Tempest was a headline performer in Vegas until an onstage incident that she was blamed for, caused her to se everything and go home to Hidden Creek to stay with her family. Trouble follwowed her - a body of a co-performer was found in a wall in an old house Tempest's father's company was remodeling. Other things were happening around Tempest that were very odd. She and her friends start inveslotigating to find out what is happending and who is behind it. There are great characters in this book and I really enjoyed them. I also liked the plot and found the architecture of the hidden rooms and puzzling locks fascinating. Tempest's grandfather's cooking and love of food is peppered through the book. The mystery had enough complexity to keep my attention. Thanks to St. Martin's Press through Netgalley for an advance copy. This book will be published on March 15, 2022.

  13. 4 out of 5

    3 no 7

    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. 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Idk this was... alright. I will elaborate a little further after I think on it a bit! RTC

  15. 4 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY by Gigi Pandian St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books. Pub Date Mar 15. Absolutely loved this totally unique mystery, my first by author Gigi Pandian, and the first in what will be a winning series, if UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY is any indication. What a clever storyline! Las Vegas magician Tempest Raj is nearly killed in an accident that sends her ashamed and stunned to her family's home in Cali. All she wants is to binge on her grandfather's delicious Indian feasts. But she UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY by Gigi Pandian St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books. Pub Date Mar 15. Absolutely loved this totally unique mystery, my first by author Gigi Pandian, and the first in what will be a winning series, if UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY is any indication. What a clever storyline! Las Vegas magician Tempest Raj is nearly killed in an accident that sends her ashamed and stunned to her family's home in Cali. All she wants is to binge on her grandfather's delicious Indian feasts. But she knows, as the days go by, that her family will pressure her to work in her father's business, Secret Staircase Construction, which makes hidden stairs and rooms, secret reading nooks, treehouses, sliding bookcases, and more for clients who want to recapture their childhoods. Don't you just love that? I sure did! Of course, I was reminded of my fav Nancy Drew book, The Hidden Staircase, which brought such magic to my childhood as Pandian is now doing for my adulthood. Murder, scrumptious food, a possible family curse that's existed for ages, and a heroine you'll cheer for make UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY a complete delight. Yippee, I've found a new fav mystery series! Thanks to the author, St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for the ARC. Opinions are mine. #underlockandskeletonkey #gigipandian #stmartinspressmimotaurbooks #newfavmysteryseries

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    This is my first Gigi Pandian book but it won’t be my last. In this book she introduces Tempest Raj, a young woman from a family of magicians. Tempest is famous for creating complex magic performances that tell stories. Magic runs in her family. In fact, her grandfather, a former doctor and now a chef, comes from a line of magicians in India, and her mother and deceased aunt carried on the family tradition. The other family tradition is a curse, where the eldest child in the family dies under unu This is my first Gigi Pandian book but it won’t be my last. In this book she introduces Tempest Raj, a young woman from a family of magicians. Tempest is famous for creating complex magic performances that tell stories. Magic runs in her family. In fact, her grandfather, a former doctor and now a chef, comes from a line of magicians in India, and her mother and deceased aunt carried on the family tradition. The other family tradition is a curse, where the eldest child in the family dies under unusual or terrible circumstances. At the open, Tempest is back in the family‘s home after a terrible accident that almost killed her, and destroyed her finances and reputation. She is now looking to rebuild her life, but doesn’t want to join her father’s construction business: his company creates unique and unusual puzzle structures in homes. After discovering the dead body of Tempest’s performance body double at a recent construction site, Tempest decides to dig for clues. She reconnects with her former best friend Ivy, ropes in Sanjay, a magician friend, and Gideon, one of her father’s employees and a stonemason, to help her in her sleuthing. The tone is light, breezy, and fun. And, there is so much fantastic food in this book! I was perpetually hungry while reading. This was an enjoyable mystery. I was able to figure out who committed various crimes in the book, but I still liked the story and characters. And, though I’ve never read the author’s other series, I liked that Jaya Jones got a nod, so I know this and her Jaya Jones series happen in the same world and similar time frames, so I am going to hunt down Jaya’s series, and I am looking forward to Tempest’s next outing. Thank you to Netgalley and to St. martin’s Press for this ARC in exchange for my review. story I also liked that though I’ve never read the series that Jaya Jones in her gets annoyed at here so we know that the these stories happen in the same world and time frame so I am definitely gonna be picking up that series of Sandpoint in the meantime I’m really looking forward to the next garage mystery and adventure so to speak and I can’t wait

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chatting About Cozies

    An interesting story where the protagonist is a stage magician. For readers who like illusions and figuring out puzzles, this is the book for you.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kellye

    Adding my review here too. This "gothic cozy" (as I've heard the author describe it) was soo freaking good. It's great because it takes the cozy tropes we all love (woman returning home to her small town in disgrace, mouth watering food with recipes, etc) and turns it on its head (the MC is a magician, the dead body is found hidden in a decades old wall). Gigi Pandian has made quite the name for herself as a master of locked room mysteries (which are impossible crimes as she tells us in the book Adding my review here too. This "gothic cozy" (as I've heard the author describe it) was soo freaking good. It's great because it takes the cozy tropes we all love (woman returning home to her small town in disgrace, mouth watering food with recipes, etc) and turns it on its head (the MC is a magician, the dead body is found hidden in a decades old wall). Gigi Pandian has made quite the name for herself as a master of locked room mysteries (which are impossible crimes as she tells us in the book). And this one doesn't disappoint. It also has something for both long-time fans (you'll recognize a few people and names) while also definitely making sure she'll have NEW fans. Can't wait for more folks to read this one!

  19. 4 out of 5

    The Hobbyist

    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. 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    John Culuris

    . I have trouble resetting myself. Not so much in life, but as a reader, absolutely. If I come at the story wrong, or it’s not what I expect, or I’m personally out of sorts; that’s where resetting becomes a necessity. Experience has taught me to put the book away for a while and come back to it later, fully knowing what to expect. That was not as option here. Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian arrived with the following obligation: This novel was a part of a GoodReads giveaway, awarded i . I have trouble resetting myself. Not so much in life, but as a reader, absolutely. If I come at the story wrong, or it’s not what I expect, or I’m personally out of sorts; that’s where resetting becomes a necessity. Experience has taught me to put the book away for a while and come back to it later, fully knowing what to expect. That was not as option here. Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian arrived with the following obligation: This novel was a part of a GoodReads giveaway, awarded in hopes of a fair and honest review. As usual, there was no other expectation or requirement on my part. No expectation or requirement, but that implied obligation. An obligation that in the past I had failed to deliver on in a timely fashion--and sometimes not at all. Never again. It’s the reason I allowed myself to enter a giveaway again. Never again. And so I found myself in a position where I had to reset. My first reset was minor. It did not take long to realize that the protagonist in this novel lacked the charm of Zoe Faust, The Accidental Alchemist, the lead in the only other Gigi Pandian book I’ve read. An easy reconciliation. We meet Tempest Raj at perhaps the lowest point in her life. Once a headlining magician in Las Vegas, Tempest’s show was sabotaged in such a way by her stand-in, Cassidy Sparrow, that Tempest was promptly labeled irresponsible. Disgraced publicly and abandoned by her colleagues, she retreats her small hometown. There we learn of the elements that helped form her life’s work: the Secret Staircase Construction company, through which her father specializes in building hidden rooms, secret entrances and intricate locks; and a family curse that reputedly takes the life of the first born, going back generations; and a best friend whose loves locked room mystery novels, particularly those of John Dickson Carr. In fact, aspects of Carr’s legacy can be found throughout the book. The problem, then? From the back cover: “[W]hen Tempest visits her dad’s latest project, her former stage double is discovered dead inside a wall that’s supposedly been sealed for more than a century. . . .” Major reset. Anybody whose read, say, five Carr books, not to mention fans of the sub-genre in general, almost immediately know exactly how this “impossible” crime occurred. (view spoiler)[A heavy six-foot-long bag crashes to the floor. There appears to be black hair--black human hair--escaping the sack. The room is cleared until the arrival of the authorities. A room with multiple entrances was left unsecured and unobserved! It is immediately clear to an experienced reader that Cassidy was never in that wall. I read on, hoping this was the author giving the reader an easy answer so that she could unsuspectingly work in clues to a real solution to be revealed later. But within a couple of chapters we share thoughts with Tempest, who is completely baffled. A professional magician, whose entire adult life is steeped in art of misdirection, and she is fooled by this? I think I actually groaned. (hide spoiler)] What saved the book for me was that I had gotten to know Tempest and her family and friends, and I wanted to learn more. And there were other questions that also needed answers, most of them wisely raised by the author herself over the course of the novel. Was Tempest the intended victim and Cassidy killed by mistake? What is the secret behind the family curse? Was it real, however unlikely, or was someone using it against Tempest for some unknown reason? And, of course, knowing how the trick was done doesn’t necessarily lead you to the killer. There remained a lot more to discover. Thankfully, as the story unfolds, Pandian expertly explains everything, even the strategically-placed minor mysteries that exist only to confuse and distract the characters (and sometimes the audience). My initial disappointment was probably an overreaction. In response to someone claiming that no one wrote locked room mysteries anymore, someone else (almost certainly Kellye Garrett) answer by naming Gigi Pandian. With the recent loss of Edward D Hoch--and, yes, I know more than a decade hardly qualifies as recent, but that’s how it feels to me--I did not want to see the art form die. I have to hope this is not Pandian’s best effort, at least in respect to howdunits. But otherwise there were many, many positives. In sum, I found characters and a world I want to revisit.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angie Boyter

    Can a stage magician solve a real puzzle? I confess I have never read a book whose protagonist is a woman with an Indian father and a Scottish mother. Add to that her profession as a stage magician, and how could I resist? The cleverness in the setup of this series is carried out in many details. There are descriptions of projects that Secret Staircase Construction has built, like wood slats in the floor in the shape of a skeleton key and the fake copy of Invisible Man that opens a bookcase to re Can a stage magician solve a real puzzle? I confess I have never read a book whose protagonist is a woman with an Indian father and a Scottish mother. Add to that her profession as a stage magician, and how could I resist? The cleverness in the setup of this series is carried out in many details. There are descriptions of projects that Secret Staircase Construction has built, like wood slats in the floor in the shape of a skeleton key and the fake copy of Invisible Man that opens a bookcase to reveal a hidden room when you tug on it. Tempest is an enjoyable protagonist, a credible character despite her unusual background, and the mixed ethnicities give rise to some very interesting culinary combinations, some of whose recipes are provided in the book. The full cast of quirky characters, including three generations of Tempest’s family and Tempest’s former BFF Ivy, who is a welder working for Secret Staircase Construction, all have rather eccentric backgrounds. Tempest even has a pet rabbit named Abracadabra. All of this makes Under Lock and Skeleton Key a good candidate if you are in the mood for a whimsical read for the beach or a cold winter’s day. Another aspect mentioned in the book description is the tribute to classic locked room mysteries, and this is where some readers may find themselves disappointed. Fans of such mysteries often tend to favor rather cerebral plots and puzzles they can work out themselves, and this is certainly not that kind of mystery. There is some good mention of classic mysteries like the Dr. Fell series that will probably motivate many readers to go look for some old favorites. Ivy presents a nice comparison of locked room mysteries compared to closed circle mysteries, and her analysis of puzzle plots versus psychological mysteries is right on target. However, readers who are looking for a puzzle mystery may be disappointed. In addition, there were too many implausible features to the plot to satisfy this type of reader. The unconventional background and characters ARE fun, but Pandian overdoes them a bit. There are, for example, too many mentions of Tempest’s red shoes and Ivy’s puffy pink vest. And the many hidden nooks and egresses designed by Secret Staircase Construction are admirable, but it is impossible to imagine one house with so many of them! Some of the writing is a bit rough, like use of the word, “illicit” rather than “elicit” , but the published version may have corrected many of these problems. If you are definitely in the mood for some escape fiction and can suspend your critical thinking in a big way, Under Lock and Skeleton Key may be just your cup of cardamom tea. Just don’t expect Hercule Poirot. I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Rooney

    A fun locked room mystery. Tempest Raj was a stage magician in Las Vegas until someone sabotaged her act and ruined her career. Tempest returns home where her family has a construction business that specializes in secret rooms and the like. (I need their house to be real and available on VRBO or similar. Someone please make this happen.) The mystery is fun, and I enjoyed the way stage magic was incorporated into the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carol lowkey.bookish

    This was a great start to the series – plenty of interesting characters and potential plotlines ripe for future mystery books. The main character, Tempest Raj, has an interesting life and backstory. I did figure out part of the mystery right away, but there were parts that still surprised me. I knew the ‘who’, but I couldn’t figure out the ‘how’ or the ‘why’. The mystery was complex and fun to read about it when it was spelled out to me in the end. I would like to see this book made into a movie This was a great start to the series – plenty of interesting characters and potential plotlines ripe for future mystery books. The main character, Tempest Raj, has an interesting life and backstory. I did figure out part of the mystery right away, but there were parts that still surprised me. I knew the ‘who’, but I couldn’t figure out the ‘how’ or the ‘why’. The mystery was complex and fun to read about it when it was spelled out to me in the end. I would like to see this book made into a movie because I need to see how these secret rooms, staircases work! There are also delicious sounding dishes prepared by her grandfather. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few of the recipes in the back of the book for readers to try. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    I will share my review soon.Tempest Raj returns home after someone sabotaged her last performance in Las Vegas. Tempest has yet to prove who committed the act but until she can, her career is toast. Her father asks her to join the family business, Secret Staircase Construction. The business has not been the same since her mother disappeared during an act five years prior. Tempest is hesitant to accept, but she gets drawn in when a hidden space is discovered in the latest project. Someone hid the I will share my review soon.Tempest Raj returns home after someone sabotaged her last performance in Las Vegas. Tempest has yet to prove who committed the act but until she can, her career is toast. Her father asks her to join the family business, Secret Staircase Construction. The business has not been the same since her mother disappeared during an act five years prior. Tempest is hesitant to accept, but she gets drawn in when a hidden space is discovered in the latest project. Someone hid the body of Tempest’s former stage double in a wall of the house. Tempest cannot help but wonder if someone meant to kill her. It also has Tempest wondering if it is her turn to fall victim to the Raj family curse. The only way to get answers is for Tempest to channel her favorite sleuth and investigate the crime. Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is the debut of A Secret Staircase Mysteries. This is a multicultural cozy mystery. We get to meet Tempest Raj, an illusionist along with her grandparents, father, and best friend (plus a cast of secondary characters). Tempest has an interesting and colorful family. I enjoyed learning about Tempest and meeting the Raj clan. Her mother disappeared five years prior during an act. I have to wonder what happened to her. I hope we find out in the future (could it be part of the family curse). There are hidden rooms, secret staircases, illusions, magic, and plenty of mouthwatering food in this cozy mystery. There is even a secret library. I love that Tempest’s bedroom is hidden in her home. There are plenty of secret spaces in the Raj families unique dwelling (or should I say dwellings). Tempest and her best friend, Ivy grew up reading mysteries. The author mentions some of my childhood favorites. The whodunit has some clever parts. I was curious how a killer could get a dead body in a hidden space that has seemingly not been opened in decades. Tempest did a good job at investigating the crime. The killer, though, was easily identified. The reveal was a little bit confusing. I had to reread the ending to capture all the different bits. There is quite a bit of repetition in the story. I wish it had been eliminated and the book would have been a better length. There are times when I felt the story is aimed at a younger audience (Tempest is in her mid-20s). This was a lighthearted, fun cozy mystery that has many great elements. It will be interesting to see what designs Tempest comes up with for Secret Staircase Construction. Under Lock & Skeleton Key is magical tale with secret staircases, a dead doppelganger, a centuries old curse, a missing mother, a curious key, mouthwatering morsels, hypnotizing illusions, and a surprising missive.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    While I loved the idea of The Secret Staircase Construction Company, overall this book was not for me which I know puts me in the minority of readers. The writing felt clunky, the characters one-dimensional and I felt things jumped all over the place so I was never able to fully engage in the story. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for a copy of the ebook in exchange for a fair and honest review. While I loved the idea of The Secret Staircase Construction Company, overall this book was not for me which I know puts me in the minority of readers. The writing felt clunky, the characters one-dimensional and I felt things jumped all over the place so I was never able to fully engage in the story. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for a copy of the ebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I really enjoyed this book :) I'm not necessarily a fan of locked room mysteries, but I did grow up watching David Copperfield every time he had a show on TV, so the magic aspect was lots of fun. All of the characters were unique and relatable. I also enjoyed the literary name dropping ;), I would pick Trixie Belden also! Beautiful family dynamics and friendships I really enjoyed this book :) I'm not necessarily a fan of locked room mysteries, but I did grow up watching David Copperfield every time he had a show on TV, so the magic aspect was lots of fun. All of the characters were unique and relatable. I also enjoyed the literary name dropping ;), I would pick Trixie Belden also! Beautiful family dynamics and friendships

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carla

    Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is the first book in the Secret Staircase Mystery series. While this is the first book in this series, I enjoyed the appearance of some characters from her previous series. Having said that, you do not need to have read any of her other books to enjoy this story. Tempest Raj was working as a magician in Las Vegas but her last performance was sabotaged by her assistant and she almost died. She is in the midst of a law suit, so she has headed back to her c Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is the first book in the Secret Staircase Mystery series. While this is the first book in this series, I enjoyed the appearance of some characters from her previous series. Having said that, you do not need to have read any of her other books to enjoy this story. Tempest Raj was working as a magician in Las Vegas but her last performance was sabotaged by her assistant and she almost died. She is in the midst of a law suit, so she has headed back to her childhood home in California. The home Tempest grew up in is unique to say the least with her family owning Secret Staircase Construction which specializes in hidden and intricate home designs so their home is a model of all the things they can do. As Tempest is settling in, she goes for a visit to her father’s latest project. Things become complicated when they find a body in a room that is supposed to have been closed for years. It is Tempest's assistant/stage double and they have no idea how she got there. Was Tempest the actual target? How did the body get in the closed room? Is this the Raj curse? Tempest decides they need to find the killer fast, so with the help of some friends, Tempest becomes a sleuth determined to answer these questions. I enjoyed this story. The magic angle is interesting and opens up a lot of possibilities. Diverse characters, wonderful food and Indian Culture all add a different and interesting storyline. I love the family business as well. Adding secret rooms, staircases, passages etc. to an old house sounds quite intriguing and adds some red herrings and clues to the story. I did a read listen with this book and enjoyed both formats. I will say I enjoyed the ebook more, probably because of the slower story. Soneela Nankani does a wonderful job with the story. Her voices, expression, pacing and tone are all well matched to the story. The first book in a new series often contains a lot of character building so it moves a bit slower, but I was still engaged in this story. I will definitely be watching for the next book in this series.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    This new cozy mystery series debut was such FUN! Tempest Raj is a former Vegas illusionist who has come back home to California after a career disaster. She tries to resist getting back into the family construction business that specializes in building secret staircases and hidden passageways but when her body double turns up dead she can't help trying to get to the bottom of the mystery that seems to be linked to a family curse and the inheritance her mother left her. I loved the rich Scottish a This new cozy mystery series debut was such FUN! Tempest Raj is a former Vegas illusionist who has come back home to California after a career disaster. She tries to resist getting back into the family construction business that specializes in building secret staircases and hidden passageways but when her body double turns up dead she can't help trying to get to the bottom of the mystery that seems to be linked to a family curse and the inheritance her mother left her. I loved the rich Scottish and South Asian heritage Tempest embraces from both sides of her family. The food descriptions in this book are amazing and as a librarian I fell in love with the fantastical hidden library in this book!! The mystery kept me guessing right to the end and I loved Tempest's little bunny sidekick! Great on audio narrated by one of my favs, Soneela Nankani. Highly recommend this one especially for fans of other diverse cozy mystery series like the Tita Rosie's Kitchen mysteries, Abby Collette's Ice Cream Parlor mysteries or the Mimi Lee Sassy cat mysteries. I can't wait for the next Tempest Raj adventure!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    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 traditio 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.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    Boring boring boring. Need I go on?

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