“Under Lock & Skeleton Key”

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.