by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to order it from Amazon.
As much as Tempest Raj wants to deny the existence of the Raj family curse, five generations of mysterious deaths have her believing in the inevitability of bad luck. A magician act gone terribly wrong not only cost Tempest her job in Las Vegas, it forced her to sell everything she had and move back to California and help with her father’s Secret Staircase Construction business. As much as Tempest loves her grandparents’ home of hidden reading nooks and secret gardens, building the same for paying clients was never her goal. A stage trick that she believes was sabotaged ended Tempest’s career as one of the Top 25 Under 25 entertainers, though, and now the Scottish-Indian former stage magician is back home starting over. It’s on one of her first projects where they make a horrific discovery in a hidden closet, that of the body of her former assistant Cassidy Sparrow, the woman whom Tempest blames for ruining her career.
Needing to know the solutions to the puzzles that haunt her, Tempest reaches out to her loyal magician friend Sanjay Rai, otherwise known as The Hindi Houdini. Socially oblivious, but undeniably as talented with magic tricks as he is attractive, Sanjay is the “Just Friends” she needs to help her build up her confidence and her career. Through construction company new hire Gideon Torres readers are given an entry point to some of Tempest’s magic performances, which are a masterful mix of distractions and knowledge of human predictive behavior. For five generations the Raj family have led a dynasty of family magical practitioners, and it is from them that she learned the art of building a story first and working a trick around it. Now Tempest, Sanjay, Gideon, and her friend Ivy Youngblood will use their collective knowledge of construction, classical mysteries, and the art of distraction to solve a mystery and truth behind her family’s curse.
This first in a series bursts out of the gate with an extraordinarily likable, fully developed character. Tempest’s Scottish-Indian heritage and work in a male-dominated profession taught her how to fit in everywhere without ever feeling like she truly belonged. Fans of the author’s Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt series will welcome the reappearance of Sanjay Rai, who always hovers in the vicinity as a handsome possibility who never manages to land the girl. That may change here, but Gideon seems to have a leg up on the competition even if he is still the New Guy in their construction business. Delicious sounding – and very complicated – recipes of Grandpa Ash’s Rajaloo potatoes and cookies that blend Tempest’s Scottish and Indian heritage will tantalize readers into making their own attempts at recreating these spicy delicacies. This is an outstanding new mystery series that revels in its multi-racial cast of characters, while also showcasing the fascinating, secretive art of magic. While Tempest explains some of the secrets of her craft, so much is left to explore that readers will be left anxiously awaiting the next adventure of Tempest and the Secret Staircase Construction business.
To enter to win a copy of Under Lock & Skeleton Key, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “skeleton,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 7, 2022. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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