I recently discovered a new author who has given me many exciting reading adventures and has also become a role model for me as an author. Gigi Pandian is a writer who decided to go her own way and play outside the box, only to find the box was following her. Gigi Pandian‘s Jaya Jones mystery series incorporates a different kind of magic — the stage magician kind — with no less transporting effects than if it was the fantasy kind. And her mysteries are gentle enough for my sensitivies, and take me traveling to places on the planet I enjoy as an armchair traveler. Throw in some complicated romantic tensions and these have become my late-night addiction. Here are the books I’ve enjoyed so far, and I’m happy to say I have many more to enjoy, because Pandian is a prolific writer. She also brings her background as the child of archaeologists to the international settings and characters from diverse backgrounds. All in all, her books are an intoxicating blend of mystery, people, places, and humor.
A lost work of art linking India to the Italian Renaissance. A killer hiding behind a centuries-old ghost story. And a hidden treasure in Italy’s macabre sculpture garden known as the Park of Monsters … When Jaya’s old professor dies under eerie circumstances shortly after discovering manuscripts that point to a treasure in Italy’s Park of Monsters, Jaya and her brother pick up the trail. From San Francisco to the heart of Italy, Jaya is haunted by a ghost story inexorably linked to the masterpieces of a long-dead artist and the deeds of a modern-day murderer. Untrustworthy colleagues, disappearing boyfriends, and old enemies—who can Jaya trust when the ghost wails?
- This was the one I started with, mainly because of the title. Anything Renaissance! After writing and publishing my book, The Renaissance Club, I’d studied Michelangelo and hadto see how he could be worked into a ghost story. I wasn’t disappointed. More exciting reading adventures from Pandian soon followed.
A thousand-year-old secret room. A sultan’s stolen treasure. A missing French priest. And an invitation to Paris to rekindle an old flame…Historian Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of enigmatic Lane Peters and a 90-year-old stage magician, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.
- This one took me to France, where I’ve always wanted to go. I love books that allow me to travel without the tiresome thing of getting on planes. And I love a strong heroine who’s capable of solving mysteries, traveling the world, taking on villains, and still laughing. Especially if she’s a bit of a romantic.
The Elusive Elixir
Dorian Robert-Houdin, the three-and-a-half-foot gargoyle chef who fancies himself a modern-day Poirot, is slowly turning into stone, and it’s up to Zoe Faust to unravel the alchemical secrets that can save him. When they discover that a long-lost stone gargoyle with a connection to Dorian has reappeared in Europe, the stakes are even higher. From Portland to Paris, Zoe searches for the hidden knowledge she needs, but a cold case that harkens back to 1942 throws her off course. With an ailing friend desperately trying to discover his own Elixir of Life and a new romantic interest offering the first chance at love she’s had in nearly a century, Zoe is torn between a dangerous form of alchemy and her desire for a normal life.
- I jumped into this other series by Pandian because it promised actual magic, as in the fantasy kind. Right away, the living gargoyle character won my heart. Not to mention alchemy and near-immortality (via the elixir).
I highly recommend these books, if you like lively mysteries without lots of blood and gore, and with appealing, compelling characters (the gargoyle is the best), and settings that take you traveling.
The role model part was compelling to me too. As a new novelist finding the whole publishing thing utterly challenging, Gigi Pandian’s road to and through publication inspired. She forged her own path.
The gate keepers of the industry these days appear to be often in disarray. They don’t seem sure about what they want, what will sell, and how to go about finding authors. Small presses pop up and disappear, leaving their authors sometimes stranded. Self-published authors find their books sinking beneath the might waves of millions of other books, with no publicity life rafts to save them. I’m sure there are masterpieces going unread in that ocean of Amazon. It’s all daunting, to say the least.
But Pandian’s courage inspires me. She began to work in her own way, with her own blend of categories, and with a small press. She’s gone on to win awards and confidently start a new series. I’d like to write what I’m inspired to write, no matter what the market wants. And seeing an author who’s independent and focused on her vision gives me heart to keep going.
And while you’re here, take a look inside my magical story of a time-traveling art historian who gets to meet the artist she’s idolized, in The Renaissance Club.