Guest Chick: Gigi Pandian

Leslie, here, and it’s my pleasure to welcome the marvelous Gigi Pandian, author of the multiple award-winning Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt, Accidental Alchemist, and, most recently, Secret Staircase mysteries. Having read the first in this new series, Under Lock and Skeleton Key, I can tell you I’m champing at the bit to get to her newest one, The Raven Thief! Today, Gigi gives us a glimpse behind-the-scenes of how she came to write this new book. Take it away, Gigi:

Thanks so much to for the invitation to join you today!
I thought I’d share a behind-the-scenes story about how I wrote my new novel, THE RAVEN THIEF, which comes out March 21. The book is the second in my Secret Staircase Mysteries, a series featuring Tempest Raj, a former stage illusionist who uses her skills at misdirection to build hidden rooms for her family’s home renovation company.

The driving idea for this new mystery series was that I wanted to pay homage to the classic locked-room mystery novels I adore—but with my own updated twist. 

Locked-room mysteries are the type of mystery where the crime looks truly impossible. They’re a double mystery, because you’re not only looking for WHOdunnit, but also HOWdunnit. You have a baffling puzzle to solve—one that, if done well, is clever and twisty, and one where you won’t guess the ending, even though all the clues were presented fairly. This type of mystery was hugely popular a century ago, during the Golden Age of detective fiction, and I’m happy to see it enjoying renewed popularity.

The problem? I also love cozy mysteries that focus on characters and their relationship with their family and friends. I want those relationships to be as central to the story as the impossible crime.

Yes, I want it both ways!

I’m happy with the balance I’ve achieved in my previous novels. However, the puzzle I had in mind for THE RAVEN THIEF was my most twisty yet. There wasn’t only one impossibility, but four.

Tempest and her family and friends are attending a fake séance at the mystery novel-themed home interior that Secret Staircase Construction recently finished renovating, when a dead body crashes the party. A dead man somehow gets into a sealed room, materializes on the center of a séance table in spite of everyone around the table holding hands, is found to have been killed by a knife that couldn’t possibly have stabbed him, and he was seen miles away only moments before.

Could I do justice to the complexity of this locked-room puzzle while also staying focused on Tempest, her grandfather chef who’s accused of the crime, and her family and circle of friends in Hidden Creek? For a little while, I wasn’t so sure! But thanks to my critique readers, my brainstorm writers group—big thanks to Chicks Ellen and Lisa!—and my editor, I kept pushing myself to write an even better book. A book where readers will get swept up in the cozy story of Tempest and her circle of family and friends, and be happily surprised by the mystery’s solution.

I’m thrilled to find early reviews confirming that I pulled it off. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called THE RAVEN THIEF a “brilliant homage to classic golden age authors” and said “Pandian’s clever solution matches the challenges she sets for her endearingly imperfect lead.”


Readers: Do you like to try and solve the puzzle of a mystery novel as you read it? Or do you prefer to go along for the ride and be surprised at the end?

ABOUT THE RAVEN THIEF: One murder. Four impossibilities. A fake séance hides a very real crime.

Tempest Raj returns in locked-room mystery THE RAVEN THIEF, where sliding bookcases, trick tables, and hidden reading nooks hide a sinister puzzle. Secret Staircase Construction just finished their first project with Tempest officially a part of the team―a classic mystery novel-themed home interior. The housewarming party is all lighthearted fun until a real dead body crashes the mock séance.  
More about the book:
Psst: There’s a great pre-order giveaway for everyone who pre-orders by March 20!

ABOUT GIGI: Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and accidental almost-vegan. The child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India, she spent her childhood being dragged around the world on their research trips and now lives outside San Francisco. She writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and Secret Staircase mysteries She’s been awarded Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Derringer awards, was an Edgar finalist, and is a co-founder of Crime Writers of Color. Her latest locked-room mystery novel, THE RAVEN THIEF, comes out March 21.
Sign up for Gigi’s email newsletter for bookish fun and a free locked-room mystery story (and recipes!):  

31 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Gigi Pandian

  1. Congratulations on your upcoming release, Gigi! It sounds absolutely amazing. I’m pretty much along for the ride when I read a mystery. When I’m watching one, it’s a totally different matter. I’m quite good at making as many 3 wrong guesses picking the wrong-doer during a 1 hour TV show!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, J.C.! That’s so interesting that you think of mysteries differently when you’re reading versus watching! I’m the same with both — I have fun trying to guess, but I’m happiest when I’m surprised.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Gigi, glad you’re here! Huge congrats on The Raven Thief–can’t wait to read it! I love trying to solve the mystery, but I don’t push it too hard because it’s so satisfying to have everything tie up in an unexpected way. (I think locked-room mysteries are super hard to pull off, so kudos to you!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gigi – Many congratulations on your latest Secret Staircase mystery. I loved the first book in the series and can’t wait to learn about the latest adventures (although I do hope you’ll return to Jaya at some point in time).
    I’m delighted to immerse myself in well-told stories so that the final reveal is an ‘oh, wow’ moment that’s plausible but not my first choice for the villan. On the other hand, if the writing isn’t working for me, I’ll read the last two chapters to find out whodunnit first. So, I’m your classic fence straddler!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ruth! Yup, having it both ways with a book is so much fun 🙂
      (And yes, Jaya was temporarily paused with the pandemic canceled my book research travel plans, so we’ll see what the future holds!)


  4. Gigi, we’re so happy to have you here today! We Chicks are all such fans. And I, for one, can’t wait to have my copy of Raven finally in hand. I think I’m a combo of being an armchair detective and also along foe the ride. (Is that possible?) PS See you soon!


  5. Congrats! I love reading locked room mysteries, although I rarely figure them out. I have a much higher solve rate on more conventionally crafted whodunnits. I’m humble — and honest enough to admit I don’t think I could successfully write a locked room mystery. So much respect to your mad skills, GiGi!!


  6. I enjoy trying to solve the puzzles in mysteries, but I’m terrible at it! The twists, turns & red herrings keep me on my toes. I love your books & am excited about The Raven Thief, it sounds wonderful.


  7. I bow down before those of you who can write a good locked room mystery! They’re haaaaard!

    Love ALL your books, Gigi!


  8. Gigi, congratulations on another fantastic book! I love a locked-room mystery–and I love trying to fit the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle together to figure out who/howdunnit. Add in a séance, and it’s a win for me!


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