Sunday, March 6, 2022

What’s a Gothic Cozy Mystery? A guest blog by Gigi Pandian

Jenn McKinlay: Whenever I go to a conference, there is one person I look for immediately - the fabulous Gigi Pandian! Why? Well, because she's fabulous but also from the first time we met we just clicked. Seeing her is like running into a childhood friend. We just pick up right where we left off. I was fortunate enough to get an advance look at Gigi's latest mystery UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY (dropping March 15th) and I am here to testify that it is fantastic! Now here's Gigi to tell us more.


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GIGI: Thanks for hosting me today, Jenn!

When I began writing the book that became Under Lock & Skeleton Key, the first novel in my

new Secret Staircase mystery series, I didn’t know what to call it—until I put to words next to

each other that don’t normally go together.

Gothic Cozy.

That was it! Exactly the reader experience I was trying to create.

So… What exactly does that mean? I adore cozy mysteries—books where I love spending time

with characters I wish I could be friends with, and following the twists and turns as they follow

puzzling clues, often while cooking and eating wonderful food, and reach a happy ending. But I

also love Gothic novels and ghost stories, where I get swept up in a mysterious atmosphere. But

my absolute favorite? Books that combine the two.

In the Golden Age of detective fiction, this mashup of genres was more common (though it

wasn’t called Gothic Cozy). John Dickson Carr wrote locked-room mysteries that always had a

rational solution, but along the way the reader got swept up in eerie atmospheres like desolate

castle ruins with ghost sightings or foggy cliffs where witches were once hung, and it looks like

the only possible explanation is impossible. It must be a ghost or a curse causing the events to

transpire, because a person couldn’t have done it. But the books are mystery puzzles, and there’s

always a rational, human explanation at the end.

Yes, it’s Scooby Doo for adults!

Gigi climbing the stairs in Edinburgh!

And I love it. I’ve sprinkled plenty of spooky fun into my earlier novels, but I didn’t go all in

until now. Under Lock & Skeleton Key is a cozy locked-room mystery, and the backdrop is

Gothic architectural settings along with a family curse.

Tempest Raj is from a long line of stage magicians, but unfortunately that goes along with a

family curse: The eldest child dies by magic. It’s just a legend, right? It couldn’t possibly be real.

When Tempest’s show is wrecked by sabotage and she nearly dies, she has to wonder if it’s more

than superstition. After Tempest moves home to work for the family business, Secret Staircase

Construction—they build magic into peoples homes through architectural magic like sliding

bookshelves and secret staircases—she finds her stage double dead inside a wall that’s been

sealed for a century. It appears impossible, and also that it was meant to be Tempest herself, so

Tempest sets out to solve the impossible crime and prove the family curse doesn’t exist. All

while eating the delicious Indian and Scottish food her grandfather cooks in the extravagant tree

house in the backyard and reconnecting with old friends.


Jungle Red Writers—Gigi Pandian March 2022 for Jenn McKinlay


Readers, what do you think? Should we coin the term Gothic Cozy? What other books

would you put in the category? I’ll go first. Julia Buckley (writing as Veronica Bond) started a

new series in 2021 with Death in Castle Dark.

JENN: I LOVED Death in Castle Dark, too. Gothic Cozy should totally be a thing!




Under Lock & Skeleton Key comes out from Minotaur Books on March 15!

https://www.gigipandian.com/secret-staircase-mysteries

An impossible crime. A family legacy. The intrigue of hidden rooms and secret staircases.

After a disastrous stage 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.


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 (and is currently an Edgar Award finalist!), and is

a co-founder of Crime Writers of Color. Her latest novel is locked-room mystery Under Lock &

Skeleton Key, out March 15, 2022.


Learn more and sign up for her email newsletter (which includes a free locked-room mystery

story and free mini cookbook) at www.gigipandian.com and connect on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/GigiPandian/ and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/gigipandian/

44 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Gigi . . . I really enjoy locked room mysteries; I’m looking forward to meeting Tempest . . . .

    Gothic Cozy sounds perfect to me. As for other Gothic cozy tales, how about Verity Bright’s “A Very English Murder” or Merryn Allingham’s “The Bookshop Murder”???

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  2. GIGI: Congratulations on the new series and book!
    Gothic cozy? Sure, but I categorize your book as more of a locked-room cozy, with food. I enjoy the scenes where yummy meals are cooked and eaten with family and friends.
    See you in April at LCC ABQ!

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    1. Thanks, Grace!
      I'm happy with however readers want to characterize my books ;). And YES, always great food.
      Looking forward to seeing you soon in Albuquerque!

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  3. Gigi, congratulations. I can't wait to pick up my copy next week at my local indy.

    I can't think of any Gothic cozies off the top of my head, but I'll bet you're at the start of a new trend. Great to see and hear you online yesterday at the SINC workshop!

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    1. Thanks, Edith! That was a fun discussion yesterday.

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  4. Welcome to JRW, Gigi and congratulations on your new book. I love the premise of Lock and Skeleton Key, combining a feeling of magic with mystery. Your new protagonist is someone I'd like to meet, and what a terrific name and backstory! Most cozy mysteries have an element of romance, as well. Will Tempest meet her match, so to speak? This book is going right onto my TBR list.

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    1. Thanks, Judy. Ah yes, romance! Yes, there is a definitely a romance brewing. I love reading mysteries with romance in the mix.

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  5. Gigi, I remember when The Accidental Alchemist came out. So much buzz at Malice that year about it! And we'll deserved, with extra high marks for originality. A talking gargoyle! But so much more. Wouldn't that series also qualify as Gothic cozy?

    Hidden rooms and sliding or swinging bookcases are all the rage right now. My brother's new home has a pantry behind what looks like a tall cabinet, and everyone who sees it is charmed by the idea. Pinterest is chock-full of such ideas these days.

    Best of luck with the new series. It sounds great.

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    1. Well deserved. Geez, autocorrect.

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    2. KAREN: I LOVE Gigi's Accidental Alchemist serias! I want Dorian (the living gargoyle) to make some of those delicious vegetarian meals for me.

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    3. Agree about the Dorian books being most of the way to Gothic cozy.

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    4. Aww, thanks!
      Yes, when I mentioned the term Gothic Cozy to a writer friend, she said I was already doing it — ha! It's no surprise there are overlapping elements in my fiction, since I just write what I love.
      I wish I had time to build a secret room in my house, but it's small, so there's no room for one — I'm just happy there's enough space for a writing nook ;)

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  6. I love a gothic mystery! Our readers like their puzzles solved, but also like the tantalizing possibility that a few plot twists remain... hard to explain. Congratulations, Gigi!

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    1. Thanks, Hallie! (And I hope we get to say hello in person again one of these days!)

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  7. Congrats! Gothic + cozy sounds like a winning combination.

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  8. Congrats on the new book! Sounds like you've come up with a very winning combo!

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  9. Congratulations on your upcoming release. It sure sounds fabulous.

    I love the idea of gothic cozies. What a perfect combination!

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    1. Thanks so much, Kait. I'm having fun working on the next one :)

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  10. I like it, I like it. The term gothic mystery and hidden rooms and Tempest's Grandfather's tree house sounds like a special place. Congratulations on this new book.

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    1. Thanks, Deana. (My mom now says she wants me to built that tree house for her!)

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  11. I am eagerly waiting for the book to arrive.
    I really enjoy Gigi's books. They are clever and witty and wonderfully dense.

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  12. Wow, Gigi! This sounds fabulous! I love Gothic mysteries/romances and if you can combine these with a cozy you have a new animal indeed. I can't wait to read it. As for other books that could be classified as such, I can't think of any at the moment. I know they're out there but I haven't had coffee yet so that's my excuse.

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    1. Thanks, Pat! I'm on my second cup of coffee and just starting to function, so I completely understand.

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  13. Another entry for the TBR list! Looking forward to this one. Anybody who channels John Dickson Carr has my vote.

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    1. I adore John Dickson Carr's books and stories. My hope is to at least capture the spirit of master of the locked-room mystery!

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  14. I loved this mystery so much, Gigi. I can’t wait for it to be released in the wild. Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks so much, Jenn! Both for endorsing the book with such a lovely blurb and for inviting me today!

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  15. Hi Gigi! Gothic Cozy is definitely a thing! You had me at treehouses and Scottish food, so I can't wait to read this one!

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  16. Congratulations! Oh, my gosh, this is SO BRILLIANT! Secret Stairway Construction is over the top fabulous--you are a genius. And love that photo.
    Question for you: in writing a locked room--do you come up with the solution FIRST?

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    1. Thank you, Hank! And that's a GREAT question! The answer is YES! Sometimes the idea comes quickly, and sometimes... not so much ;). The final solution isn't exactly what I imagined, but I need the general twist idea to work from. But once the characters start interacting, I let them lead.

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    2. Yes, that completely makes sense...have a great solution, and then work backward. LOVE that! And cannot wait to read this!

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    3. Thanks so much, Hank! Writing is difficult but also definitely so much fun!

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  17. Getting in late after a full day, to say, Gigi, you had me at "Scooby Doo for adults." It's time for a gothic revival in novels!

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    1. Ha ha! Yes, at first I did feel a little silly saying Scooby Doo for adults, but life's too short to not embrace the things we love! And I would love to see more gothic vibes in mysteries!

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  18. Sorry about coming in so late today. Slept late, had a review to finish, had chili to fix. I just had to stop in and say that I cannot wait to read this book, Gigi. Gothic cozy! What a dream come true. I have this on my NetGalley shelf and plan to get to it in the next week. I love you saying Scooby Doo for adults. As someone who was just looking a a Playmobil Scooby Doo Mystery Machine to buy, you are speaking my language. I probably will buy the item on Amazon. Congratulations on Under Lock & Skeleton Key and the new series, Gigi! This is sure to be a hit.

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    1. Thanks so much, Kathy! Scooby Doo is the best :)

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  19. GIGI,
    Welcome to Jungle Reds! I am so excited for your new series! That is a gorgeous cover and I love the title. Very creative. I just finished reading the temporary copy from NetGalley and preordered the book from bookshop dot org.

    JENN, sorry I am late to the party. I was sick this morning and did not comment until now. Feeling a bit better now.

    Diana

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    1. Thank you, Diana! Yes, I'm so lucky to have gotten such a beautiful cover.
      Sorry to hear you weren't feeling well, but thanks for stopping by to comment. Sending good wishes your way :)

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