Narrator: Soneela Nankani
Series: Secret Staircase Mystery #1
Published by Macmillan Audio on March 15, 2022
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 45 mins
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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.
Is it any wonder I enjoyed Under Lock & Skeleton Key? It’s a locked room mystery, more or less, with delicious descriptions of food, multiple secret rooms and staircases, and even a family curse.
Tempest comes from a magic family- even if none of them are currently performing. The family construction business does keep up the tradition though – it’s all about creating hidden rooms, secret staircases, and the like. The misdirection theme runs throughout the book, almost too repetitively.
The mystery itself is well done. The whodunnit didn’t surprise me exactly and I was glad of a certain twist near the end. This is one of those books that’s more about the how, which was actually pretty simple in the end, but I didn’t put the pieces together.
I like Tempest and her family. They are interesting and charming and feel real in their concerns. Her friends make a great team too and I hope we see more of them in the series. I’m also hoping we don’t get a love triangle that may be shaping up – those always annoy me.
This is a cozy mystery and happily, we have both delicious food and a pet. The food comes from Grandpa Ash’s kitchen, a mix of the Indian food he grew up with and his wife’s Scottish background. The pet is a bunny, of course, befitting a magician.