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The Sirens of Suspense




Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and the forthcoming Quicksand) and the new Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant, and her short fiction has been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards. A cancer diagnosis in her 30s taught her two important life lessons: healing foods can taste amazing, and life’s too short to waste a single moment. Gigi spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with an overgrown vegetable garden in the backyard.

In The Accidental Alchemist: Unpacking her belongings in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon, herbalist and reformed alchemist Zoe Faust can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stowaway. Dorian Robert-Houdin is a living, breathing three-and-a-half-foot gargoyle—not to mention a master of French cuisine—and he needs Zoe’s expertise to decipher a centuries-old text. Zoe, who’s trying to put her old life behind her, isn’t so sure she wants to reopen her alchemical past... until the dead man on her porch leaves her no choice.


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Ever since my first trip to Europe when I was ten years old, I’ve been fascinated by gargoyles. I was tagging along with my anthropologist mom, who was spending the summer conducting research and visiting old friends in the Highlands of Scotland. The whole trip was filled with mysterious adventures, such as trekking through castle ruins, and gargoyles were the most mysterious of all. Where did they come from, and why were they perched on cathedrals and other buildings?

There are many different theories about the original meaning of gargoyles. Taken most literally, a “gargoyle” has to have a water spout for its mouth. They serve the functional purpose of draining rainwater away from a building. But the term is used much more widely, and applies to all kinds of personified grotesques on buildings. But why carve them into scary monsters as water spouts in the first place?

One interpretation is that during a time when most people were illiterate, gargoyles on churches were meant to represent demons, showing that church was a sanctuary from the demonic outside world lurking nearby. Another theory is that gargoyles were protectors, meant to ward off evil. And then there’s the fact that stone masons were artists who wanted to have some fun and be creative. Regardless of how the tradition started, they’ve become so widespread that humorous gargoyles are now just as common as scary ones.

The gargoyles of Notre Dame in Paris are some of my favorites. Most people don’t realize that those gargoyles are a relatively new addition in the cathedral’s history. Architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc restored Notre Dame in the 1800s, and the gallery of gargoyles was part of his contribution. The more than 300 steps are well worth it to stand face to face with the mysterious stone creatures, high above Paris.

My childhood adventures led me to create my first mystery series (the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries), but I hadn’t seriously considered writing a paranormal mystery series – until I began writing a short story where a gargoyle observed an unbelievable crime from his perch. The gargoyle was a tiny character in that story, but the seed was planted in my mind that he could be so much more. I love reading paranormal mysteries, so I realized it could be great fun to write a fair-play mystery that involved some paranormal elements.

When I had this idea for a formerly-stone gargoyle who was accidentally brought to life by a stage magician who didn’t believe the alchemy book he was reading from contained real magic, the image my mind conjured was of one of my favorite gargoyles on Notre Dame. Specifically, the famous winged gargoyle often referred to as Le Stryge or The Thinker. I didn’t anticipate that he would become the heart of the novel, but there’s no stopping those gargoyles. The Accidental Alchemist is the first book in a mystery new series about centuries-old female alchemist Zoe Faust and her impish gargoyle sidekick. Yup, I’ve given myself a great excuse to return to Paris for further research!



DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE GARGOYLE, OR A BELOVED MYSTERIOUS PLACE THAT INTRIGUES YOU? Tell us by commenting on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win an 8x10 art print of one of Gigi's gargoyle photographs! (U.S. only please.)



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