Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian
Known for her wonderfully addictive characters, multiple award-winning author Gigi Pandian introduces her newest heroine in this heartfelt series debut. Under Lock & Skeleton Key layers stunning architecture with mouthwatering food in an ode to classic locked-room mysteries that will leave readers enchanted.
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.
Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian is a mystery with a lot of spark and subterfuge. I loved so many things about this story. The magician tricks and architectural wonders are at the very top of the list, as who doesn’t like secret passageways and hidden rooms, not to mention illusions meant to trick the eye. It’s just chocked so full of fun.
The characters are well-developed, quirky, full of life and love. I couldn’t help but enjoy each and every one. The mystery is complex and masked by plenty of red herrings that left me stumped until the end. I even loved the main character’s name – Tempest, and that says everything you need to know about her.
She comes from a family of magicians and has her own magic show in Las Vegas until one of her tricks goes tragically wrong. She was lucky to escape with her life. She is passionate about her family and her art, which shows in everything she does. Forced to return home, Tempest is helping her father with the family business, Secret Staircase Construction, when a dead body drops into their lives – a murder that only an experienced magician can solve.
I also loved the cultural exploration in the story as Tempest comes from a profoundly multi-cultural family. Did I mention Abracadabra? He is an adorable rabbit owned by Tempest, and he helps solve the mystery in unexpected ways. The only thing I struggled with at times was the long-windedness of the exposition at points. But the content was so fascinating that it more than made up for that. Under Lock and Skeleton Key is a fun, quirky mystery with plenty of magic tricks and secrets to delight every reader. Just say Abracadabra and see what happens.
I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin
Lyrical and haunting, Hannah Capin’s I Am Margaret Moore is a paranormal thriller that tests the hold of sisterhood and truth.
I am a girl. I am a monster, too.
Each summer the girls of Deck Five come back to Marshall Naval School. They sail on jewel-blue waters; they march on green drill-fields; they earn sunburns and honors. They push until they break apart and heal again, stronger.
Each summer Margaret and Rose and Flor and Nisreen come back to the place where they are girls, safe away from the world: sisters bound by something more than blood.
But this summer everything has changed. Girls are missing and a boy is dead. It’s because of Margaret Moore, the boys say. It’s because of what happened that night in the storm.
Margaret’s friends vanish one by one, swallowed up into the lies she has told about what happened between her and a boy with the world at his feet. Can she unravel the secrets of this summer and last, or will she be pulled under by the place she once called home?
“Lyrical writing distinguishes this haunting summer camp thriller as an enthralling literary mystery with crossover appeal…[an] ingenious story about misogyny and power dynamics.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Lapin is a different type of thriller told in an equally unique way. Lapin uses poetic prose to tell a story full of many emotions ranging from love and a feeling of belonging to anger, regret, and hate. I could feel every tiny nuance of each emotion as events unfolded. Unfortunately, I struggled to find a connection that would allow me to immerse myself in the tale. I could never go deeper and simply skimmed the surface, which made this a disappointing read for me. However, I can see the artistry in the way the tale unfolded. Surprisingly, the nonlinear timeline worked fine for me since the story is told in first-person narration. It added to the genuine feel of that very personal narrative style. But the characters lacked a depth that would have taken this character-driven story to a whole new level. They are shadows of themselves from start to finish. I did, however, enjoy the twist at the end. I honestly didn’t see it coming and found myself awed by the implications. The first big twist was one I caught onto from the beginning, but that’s because I’ve read a few story plots that take a similar approach. I would mention those stories, but I realized that doing that would be a spoiler. If you are looking for a more artistic approach to a thriller, I Am Margaret Moore is just the story you are looking forward to reading.