cover image Under Lock & Skeleton Key: A Secret Staircase Mystery

Under Lock & Skeleton Key: A Secret Staircase Mystery

Gigi Pandian. Minotaur, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-80498-3

Pandian (the Accidental Alchemist mysteries) is in top form in this thoroughly enjoyable series launch starring 26-year-old Tempest Raj, a Las Vegas, Nev., magician, who returns home to California after a stage accident—engineered, she’s sure, by her stunt double, Cassidy Sparrow—destroyed her career. Tempest’s family runs a business, Secret Staircase Construction, which specializes in constructing houses with secret passageways, sliding bookcases, and hidden entrances, and on the site of her father’s latest job she discovers Cassidy’s body inside a wall that’s been sealed for decades. Could Tempest have been the intended victim? As Tempest struggles to solve the puzzle of Cassidy’s death, she reconnects with her family—largely through her grandfather’s cooking and a host of lovingly described plant-based recipes that will make even a non-vegan’s mouth water. Pandian negotiates the fine line between the magician’s pledge not to reveal their secrets and the mystery writer’s equally important promise to play fair with the reader by keeping most of the magic tricks offstage. Never mind that the solution of the impossible murder isn’t more central to the story. Lovers of traditional mysteries with quirky characters will be well rewarded. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary. (Mar.)

Due to a production error, this review originally published without its star.