Andrea’s Pick of the Week: Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian

This outstanding cozy locked-room mystery features Tempest Raj, who was born into an Indian magical dynasty dating back generations. Tempest is a highly successful stage magician with a Las Vegas show – until a tragic accident forces her to return to her Bay Area hometown with her career in shambles. She is considering going to work for her father’s business, the Secret Staircase Construction Company, when her former assistant’s body is discovered in a wall at one of their building sites. Was the intended victim Tempest herself? And is this bizarre murder the continuation of the 150-year-old Raj family curse, which says that the eldest child of each generation will die by magic?

There is so much to love about this book. It’s a treat for mystery lovers, with references to classics like Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, and John Dickson Carr. The magic reminded me of Elly Griffiths’s “Magic Men” series, and it’s fun to learn some of the secrets behind the tricks. There’s an endearing cast of characters, including Tempest’s grandpa Ash, who loves to cook Indian food with a Scottish twist (and whose recipes are at the end of the book). The setting is unique too: I loved disappearing into the magical world of Tempest’s childhood home, which contains secret staircases, a hidden library, and even a treehouse. Add to that Scottish sea legends, the ancient family curse, and a few gothic elements and you have a very compelling mystery! I’m looking forward to the next title in the series. 

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