Monday, March 21, 2022

Under Lock and Skeleton Key - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Under Lock and Skeleton Key (A Secret Staircase Mystery #1) by Gigi Pandian

Rating:  Liked It
Source:   Publisher

Description:  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.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I have enjoyed a previous book by this author and how could I resist a book involving a company that creates secret staircases?

My Impression:  This may be the best premise I've ever come across in a cozy mystery series.  I \mean what mystery lover doesn't dream of hidden passages and secret staircases built into their home?  And for the most part I enjoyed this read.  Tempest is a unique cozy mystery character.  She's not the first to come home after the world fell apart on them but her actual personality is different.  Honestly, I wouldn't want to be friends with her.  She's kind of a diva with a dose of moodiness but at the same time she's intelligent, gifted at her job, and just really interesting.  I might not want to be friends with her but I'd love to watch a talk she gave on tricks of the trade.  

What kept this book from being a winner for me was that there was just so much detail.  It's the first book in the series so we have the necessary setup of the world.  On top of that there's the backstory of multiple characters, the story of the family curse with historical references, details of the very complicated compound that Tempest and her family live in, how her father came to own the compound, and a number of other side stories.  This caused the mystery to get a little lost at times and slowed the pace - especially for the first half.                                                                 

The mystery was interesting and kept me guessing and I really liked the characters.  The details of the secret places were fascinated and made me desperately want to add a secret staircase or door or nook in my own house.  I think the series has a ton of potential and I'm looking forward to the next book.                                                                                                                                 
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Definitely!  I've enjoyed both books I've read by this author and am looking forward to reading more.

Would I Recommend this Book? If you enjoy cozies I think you would like this series though be prepared for a bit of a slower pace.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *


  1. I'm not a big fan of series but this sounds good!

  2. I want a house with a hidden staircase or two as well! This sounds like fun, and I hope the next book in the series doesn't have as much detail to bog you down.

  3. First in a series can be a bit detailed for sure. I love, love the idea of hidden staircases. Who wouldn't want one, great premise!

  4. I've been eyeing this one. It looks so good.

  5. I felt the EXACT same way about this one. The premise is unique, fun, and compelling, but the story definitely gets bogged down in all the details. Your description of Tempest is spot-on as well. I found her a *little* obnoxious. I'm hoping the books smooth out as the series goes on because I do love the concept of it.

  6. The sounds incredibly interesting! I love the idea of secret passages.