Review: Under Lock and Skeleton Key (Secret Staircase Mysteries #1) by Gigi Pandian

I am usually up for a new cozy mystery series. I always find cozy mysteries relaxing and satisfying, they typically have charming main characters and mysteries that aren’t overly complicated or too dark so they make for nice relaxing reading for me. When I saw this one come across my desk for review I was super excited because it was a new book in a mystery series, and it had a bit of a Gothic twist.

Not to mention it boasted a classic locked room mystery—-so think Murder on the Orient Express or And Then There Were None. Mysteries that on the surface appear simple and at the same time impossible but then quickly start to become more complicated as the story goes on. I love classic mysteries like this. They feel familiar and comforting so I was eager to get my hands on this one.

The thing that stood out when this one came across my desk beyond the classic style mystery was that the author was taking a classic and making it her own by adding an Indian culture element and making secret bookcase hideaways for adults—-can I just say I need one of these—and a little bit of magic. This one was a surprise and even if it was a bit repetitive it was a great start to a new series and I really enjoyed reading it!


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. (summary from Goodreads)


This one at times was a little redundant and I got the feeling it was geared more toward a younger audience. I don’t know that I would go so far as to call it YA but it certainly felt geared toward a younger reader. That didn’t necessarily make it unreadable for me, especially since I love YA but if readers don’t really like YA pick this one up they might be a bit surprised. Some of the writing was a bit redundant as mentioned and I felt like there was more telling and less showing which read clunky for me but overall it was a good mystery, not earth shattering but good. For example, Tempest is a magician and some of the descriptions of her tricks were a little lengthy and boring.

I loved the concept of the construction company and the whole Raj family thought! It has a bit of magic and yummy food description which I loved reading about. The first part of the book was a little slow but the last half of the book was pretty good and the mystery was thoughtful and fun.I loved the locked room aspect of this mystery and people who are fans of this style of mystery will no doubt find something to love in this one. With the Raj family there is a multigenerational component of the story too which I think readers will like. It gives readers a range of characters to enjoy and root for throughout the novel. One reviewer described this book as the classic mystery for the younger generation, and I agree! This is an excellent description and I second it!

Tempest was a fun heroine with a bit of quirk and I. think readers will find her fun and I am eager to see how her character evolves in future books. Overall I think this is a great start to a new mystery series but I think there are some kinks that need to get worked out in the storytelling style. Maybe tighten up some of the redundancies but over all it’s a solid start and I would certainly read more. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the mystery so I don’t give away any spoilers but overall I love how much potential there is in this one and I am eager to check out the next book in the series!

Book Info and Rating

Format: 352 pages, hardcover

Published: March 15th, 2022 by Minotaur Books

ISBN: 9781250804983

Free review copy provided by publisher, Minotaur Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 3 stars

Genre: cozy mystery, mystery


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