The Big Thrill Discusses THE ALCHEMIST OF MONSTERS AND MAYHEM with Gigi Pandian
Alchemist Zoe Faust is no stranger to magical mayhem, but when her boyfriend’s new tea shop is vandalized and his special tea blends stolen, she plunges into a baffling mystery to save him. The clues lead Zoe and her gargoyle sidekick Dorian to an eerie mansion high in the Portland hills, filled with creeping carnivorous plants and enigmatic topiary monsters.
When they stumble across a corpse in the conservatory that appears to have been killed by sinister shrubbery, an estranged member of the family is implicated in the murder. Can Zoe use her alchemical skills to catch the real killer while navigating crafty alchemists and killer plants?
Gigi Pandian recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery, THE ALCHEMIST OF MONSTERS AND MAYHEM.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
I love exploring bookshops because I love the serendipity of finding books I never would have thought to look for. I stumbled across a book on carnivorous plants, and I realized they were far more interesting than I thought. They thrive in inhospitable conditions, but if you try to cultivate them and grow them at home, they die easily.
Because an ongoing theme of my Accidental Alchemist mysteries is alchemy as transformation, I had the flash of an idea of someone who lives in a secluded mansion who’d built a conservatory filled with strange plants, many of which they Frankenstein together to form something new. Are they practicing a strange form of alchemy? When one of their neighbors ends up dead, looking as if he was devoured by a carnivorous plant, alchemist Zoe Faust and her gargoyle sidekick Dorian are the perfect pair to investigate.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
I saw an empty space in my own life that I needed to fill. I wanted to write a character who rang true for me while I was going through a year of cancer treatments, so alchemist Zoe Faust was the character I needed at the time. She accidentally discovered the Elixir of Life to live forever, while she was seeking it for a dying loved one. But because I’m a natural optimist, Zoe needed a foil. So her humorous gargoyle sidekick Dorian came to life as comic relieve.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I love balancing big questions (like what it’s like to live forever while others around you die or the changing nature of friendships as we grow older) with humor. My Accidental Alchemist mysteries are simultaneously my most serious books and also my most humorous! I also hope readers will enjoy the plant-based recipes I include, since Dorian is a chef.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I already have an idea for the eighth Accidental Alchemist mystery, but next up for me is A Midnight Puzzle, my third Secret Staircase mystery, coming from Minotaur Books in March 2024.
I love alternating between series, because different books provide different outlets for my brain. The Accidental Alchemist mysteries are humorous fantasies, my Secret Staircase mysteries are locked-room puzzles, and my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries are romantic adventures.
Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and locked-room mystery enthusiast. 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, which inspired her fiction. She’s been awarded Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Derringer awards, and been a finalist for the Edgar. She writes the Secret Staircase mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.
The Alchemist of Monsters and Mayhem with Gigi Pandian