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by Gigi Pandian
Minotaur, March 2024
342 pages
ISBN: 1250880203

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Gigi Pandian's plot lines are as magical as the skills she gives Tempest Raj to use when she designs hidden doors, floating staircases, and architectural puzzles for Secret Staircase Construction, the family business.

It's midnight, and Tempest and Ivy are trying to finish painting the puzzle room in the Whispering House, part of the mansion's renovation, when Tempest receives an angry call from Julian Rhodes demanding to know, “Where are you?” Julian claims Tempest insisted on meeting at the Whispering Creek Theater at midnight. Julian hangs up the phone as Tempest tells him to wait for her.

Tempest and her friend Nicodemus the Necromancer jump into her jeep and head to the theater. Both sense something wrong as they pull into the empty parking lot. As they approach the entrance, they see Julian standing in the doorway with a thick blade sticking through Julian's chest.

As paramedics try to free the body, another blade springs out and wounds one of the EMTs in the shoulder. Tempest explains – “a booby trap killed Julian.” Police believe the suspect killer is hiding in the theater and proceed to search, entering by another entrance. No one is found, and police start searching for Paloma Rhodes, who had checked out of the hospital the night before and disappeared. Her behavior convince police she is the primary suspect.

Then, Nicodemos returns to the theater, currently a crime scene, to retrieve Tempest's notebooks and is stabbed by a blade at the door. Now, the puzzle deepens. Who is setting the booby traps? Word spreads that "Emma Raj sets off booby traps from beyond the grave."

The Raj family lives with a curse on its female members. Tempest's mother, Emma, disappeared performing at midnight in the Whispering Creek Theater. And five years before that, Tempest's Aunt Elspeth is beheaded in her most significant show in Edinburgh, Scotland. Is Tempest next? Can she solve the puzzle?

Ms. Pandian creatively weaves a complex tale that keeps readers flipping pages until the final reveal. Combining magic with mystery in this multi-layered story makes for a riveting read featuring fascinating characters.

§ Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton's, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, March 2024

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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