Book Review: Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian

  • Title: Under Lock & Skeleton Key
  • Author: Gigi Pandian
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery, Locked Room Mystery
  • Would I recommend: Enthusiastically! Gigi Pandian does a bang-up job with a locked-room mystery.


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. 

My review:

Gigi Pandian is a new author to me, and I’m so glad to have found her! Under Lock & Skeleton Key is a well-written, thoroughly engrossing mystery that I could barely put down.

Tempest Raj is a magician, from a family of magicians. The alleged family curse, that the eldest child dies by magic, didn’t keep her from following in the footsteps of other family members. But now she’s come back home in disgrace after an illusion goes horribly wrong, facing lawsuits and the possibility of never performing again. She finds comfort in her grandfather’s home-cooked meals and in the quirky house her parents designed and created. She also finds her family determined to protect her from what they see as the curse at work.

But when the body of Tempest’s former assistant, Cassidy, is found seemingly walled up at the latest job site for her father’s construction company, and when she thinks she sees and hears the ghost of her mother, Tempest knows she’s got to figure out what’s really going on. Is it the alleged curse? Was she meant to be the dead body, or was Cassidy’s body put there for her to find for some reason?

I love Tempest! As her name implies, she’s headstrong and often quick to jump into action. This sometimes gets her in trouble. Thankfully, she’s got friends and family who have her back.

And I want to move in with her family. Grannie Mor is delightful, and I want to eat some of Grandpa Ash’s home cooked meals. I think it’s wonderful that he goes around delivering lunches to people on his bicycle. And a house with all those secret rooms and nooks and crannies! That would be such a neat place to live.

If you’re a fan of the locked-room mystery, you will love, love, love this book. It pays homage to several masters of the genre, and Pandian does a fine job setting up her own locked-room puzzle. I certainly didn’t see the reveal coming. Since this is #1 in a series, I hope we’ll see more of Tempest and her friends and family.

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy from NetGalley and Minotaur Press. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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